Friday, 11 December 2009

Dead Swans - Sleepwalkers

Thanks to my new metal mag of choice, Terrorizer, and I say "thanks" in the same way that a child says "thanks" to the grandma that made him a sweatshirt of industrial twine and razorblades for Christmas, I've become aware of the blog Metal Inquisition, which attempts to refine the medium of music snarkery to an art form, and at this point I'd like to say that I DEFINATELY HAD NEVER READ IT BEFORE THIS BLOG WAS STARTED. It's an entertaining read because beneath the complete contempt for justified opinions and constant gushing over obscure-to-unimportant '80s thrash, the entire blog is essentially a portrait of Sergeant D, the world's saddest man, his contempt for the world and triggered double kick drums a mere cover for his desire for people to value him. I have an image in my mind of a fat guy in a Devourment t-shirt hunched over his keyboard, tears streaming down his face as he types hatespeech with one hand, his other jammed down the front of his shorts as he sweatily masturbates to the MySpace photos of the fifteen year-old scene girls that fawn over BrokeNCYDE.

It suddenly occurred to me that this may well be me in twenty years time.

"No!" I said to myself, proudly holding my 50/50 good-bad ratio aloft like lion cubs in a Disney movie, "Cynicism has yet to take me! And also, no thanks, fifteen year-old girls!” I then spent a day in Brighton with a group of friends criticising everything they like, see and are. Maybe I was right the first time. Eventually one of them actually screamed at me, "Is there anything you like?!?" and confronted with the challenge that I am in fact incapable of feeling love, I actually had to think for a moment. I love webcomics, and gameboy music, and also my friends, I guess, but whatever. But yes, I'm a changed man, and I'd like to talk about something I love.

I have officially listened to "Thinking of You", the first track off Dead Swans' new album "Sleepwalkers" more times on my current iTunes library than any other song. I may well love it more than any other song on there. It is what Dead Swans are; a highly concentrated, utterly refined explosion of everything that makes hardcore great. Imagine the hyperactive hardcore punk offered up by This Is Hell combined with the intensity and brooding textural elements of The Hope Conspiracy. We're talking thoughtful, dissonant guitar soundscapes that burst into racing, soaring melody. We're talking vocals spat from the pit of the soul and roared at an imagined crowd screaming every word back. We're talking that crash-snare-crash-snare drum pattern that anywhere else would be oversimplified but in hardcore works because dammit the important thing is that they're hitting the drums really fucking hard because that means they care or something. Every hardcore trope they use, they play totally straight because if they didn't mean every second of it, it wouldn't be nearly as brilliant.

Anyway, if you could understand any part of that torrent of praise, it's that Dead Swans mean every note of the album, and considering that the last band I reviewed, I declared had no souls, this is an improvement. Yes, they just play very fast punk with a guy shouting over it, but how they do it is the sign of how superb they are. It helps that these guys have very personal lyrics, which lend the a huge amount of emotion to the performances - plus it's a great change from the usual hardcore thing of singing incessantly about HEART and PASSION and about how YOU'LL NEVER BRING US DOWN like they're hosting a fucking pep rally. Many years ago Ian MacKaye denounced the term "emotional hardcore" by pointing out that hardcore was always emotional. This was what he meant all along. Vocalist Nick Worthington possesses a superb hardcore shout packed with conviction and purpose, and the obligatory gang-vocal parts are natural and exhilarating, which is good because this album does what all the great hardcore albums do – it doesn’t prepare you for the live performance. This feels like a live performance. The captivating, energising power of this album carries the force of a real band, like the Brighton crew are actually trapped inside your speakers and that’s why they’re screaming. The guitars gracefully shift from sludgy ambient sections to fast, exhilarating riffs, and the dual guitar lines use dark, powerful harmonies to create a perfect atmosphere from start to finish. They also manage to avoid that weird obsession with oceanic and nautical imagery that most young UK bands are so into, which is nice.

"Sleepwalkers" is one of those albums that every genre has that doesn't do anything new, but does everything so well that it still seems like a novelty. It's certainly the best hardcore album any UK band has ever produced, but considering the UK hardcore scene is about three years old, that's not saying much, so let me make a bigger statement. Best hardcore release of the year. Oh, go on. Best hardcore release since This Is Hell's last one.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

P.S. I can also confirm, as of 18/12/09, that this band FUCKING RULES live. All the heart-wrenching emotion of the album is replaced with astonishing fury, and the impact of the crowd favourites whipped the crowd into a mad frenzy. A great show.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Abigail Williams - In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns

Looking back on my lack of regular output, my constant references to myself and other things you may or may not have heard me say, and the fact that the totality of my journalistic experience is a pokey little blog read by five people and taking up a perfectly good URL, I think it's safe to say that I'm not exactly professional. However, one must aim for higher standards, and I'd like to think that, at least, I'm more professional than to just give the following review:

Abigail Williams - In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns



and call in an evening.

Abigail Williams started out as an interesting prospect - it was essentially a bunch of teen metalheads playing what they knew best; At-The-Gates-style melodeath, epic melodic black metal and the obligatory metalcore vibes. Indeed they did this pretty much to the point of farce; vocalist Ken Sorceron's vocals at the time of their "Legend" EP in particular sounded like they were recorded for a computer-generated imp in a children's fantasy film. However, they were actually rather good. They managed to, for a while, be all things to all men and sounded pretty damn original while doing so. However, personal strife broke the band up, and it looked like a very promising collective had been lost to the aether of intra-band wangst.

Perhaps predictably their breakup was more of a hiatus, but it did start the precedent for them shedding members like a snake sheds skin. They reformed with a new lineup, ditched them and went for another lineup for this album, and you can tell that almost every instrumentalist in the band who wrote "Legends" was gone, because it appears that when hiring new guys, rather than articulate what precisely it was that Abigail Williams did, Sorceron just said, "We play black metal", because that's what they do now. Abigail Williams have essentially become what Emperor would have been had they formed in a mall in Phoenix rather than in a village in Norway.

One returning member from the band's earliest incarnation was keyboardist, eye candy and lead singer's "just friend", Ashley Ellyllon - now of Cradle of Filth, who's membercidal tendancies appear to have inspired Abigail Williams even more than their music - and apparently Sorceron was still trying to work his way into her lacy goth thong, because I can't think of any reason other than that why her keyboards are so high up in the mix that they block out everything except the drums. This is a shame because the guitars are really good, more than capable of shredding out the creepy melodies of the songs with icy malevolence. I know this because I heard a pre-mixing version of the song VII Empyrean: Into the Cold Wastes, in which you could actually hear them. In the final release they are swamped by blobs of generic choir synths to the point in which you can't hear a thing of them. It would seem that the endless insertion of "symphonic" into "symphonic black metal" has overpowered the "black metal" part, because Abigail Williams the Second seem intent on trying to out Dimmu Borgir Dimmu Borgir in their overblown pomp-metal. However, they seem to have missed the point somewhat.

Don't get me wrong, this album is both epic and symphonic, but they miss the point like champs. This album has none of the bite that black metal should have. It's simply very safe. There's no real aggression here, which is actually quite a feat from a band with the full black metal regalia of blast beats, high screams and shreddy guitars. It's just very unchallenging, marketable black metal played with no anguish or rage, and with no real motive but to sound cool. And maybe I've been listening to too much Xasthur and Weakling, but to me, this is the sound of black metal played by kids from southwest America who don't have souls. I'm serious, anyone who can listen to bands like Burzum and Immortal and still make music this emotionless is probably dead inside, or possibly are just pricks.

The real shame is that this once original band is now simply trying to emulate the greats of the genre. Dimmu Borgir, Bal Sagoth and Chthonic are practically namechecked, but the most obvious source of inspiration is Emperor, to the point where it's almost funny. They actually got the Norwegian lot's drummer to play for them as a session skinsman on the album. There's influence and then there's this, my friends. The problem is that they're simply not as good as their idols, no matter how hard they try. Overall this album can be summed up with the phrase "They tried too hard to be something that other people are doing much better", which is a shame because the previous iteration of Abigail Williams did the exact opposite - whether what they were doing was as good as it could be or not was irrelevant, because they were so original that judgement didn't really matter. As it stands, they are a good band, but they're trying to compete with legendary bands. They're up against competition so stiff, and so much more capable of playing this style, that their being "reminiscent of" this competition makes them obsolete, and of no further significance. I'm all for pretending that they died in the initial breakup in 2007, and never returned, while they were still more than the footnote they will now be.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Job For A Cowboy - Ruination

Job for a Cowboy's reception within the death metal scene since their last album, Genesis, is somewhat akin to Josef Mengele showing up at your local Hanukkah festivities wearing a skullcap; the overwhelming opinion is that not only are they representative of everything wrong with the world, but that their attempts to blend in only make it worse, resulting in an overriding consensus they if they so much as touch the latkes, they'll be beaten into the fucking ground.

This is a shame since Job For A Cowboy haven't really done anything wrong; they made one release that could only tentatively be labelled "deathcore" (I'm still not convinced), became internet sensations overnight, largely thanks to the fandom of fucking idiots, and despite extensive efforts to change their ways, they've never been able to break free from the perception that they're still in the fringes-and-skinny-jeans crowd, despite the fact that their music did a long time ago (Depressingly, The Faceless, another awesome death metal band, have suffered the same fate). I have no doubt that their fandom of, and desire to be, "pure" death metal is genuine, but their last album was not as far away from the anathemic Doom as it needed to be to shake the deriders. In fact, I suspect that they will never achieve acceptance from the death metal scene as a whole, purely because they represent a well-known figurehead onto which everything bad about deathcore can be projected, which is a shame, because unless Necrophagist and Decrepit Birth can pull something truly astonishing out of the bag, Job for a Cowboy's newest album, Ruination, is the best technical death metal album of the year.

Before the review begins, let me qualify that Job for a Cowboy (they really need a new name) is now technical death metal, because more than a few people are going to have a problem with this. Put on a good baseline for modern death metal, say, Homage for Satan by Deicide or Iesous by Bloodbath. Now play Unfurling a Darkened Gospel, the first track off of Ruination. The Job For A Cowboy album may not be as technical as those at all points, but the technicality is much more integrated into their new sound that it is in "traditional" death metal, while being no more chug-happy than Decapitated or Monstrosity. Nor by "best technical death metal" do I mean "most technical", I mean "highest quality release by a band who subscribe to the technical death metal genre".

It starts with a quick drum fill before the album proper erupts. In a day and age when technical death metal is jazzy and melodic - thanks a lot, Cynic - the ferocity and intensity of JFAC 3.0 really catches you off guard. Jon Rice's drumming is certainly dexterous - his fills might not be imaginative, but they certainly do the job, and his blasts are at times so fast they travel through time and scare your grandparents. John Davy's vocals have always drawn some derision, especially for the presence of "pig squeals", but here his performance is exemplary of death metal vocals at their finest - his lows have just enough distortion to always sound guttural and ferocious, and his highs are going to piss off self-styled "true" death metal fans, but they provide variety and contrast, and during the busier moments, they stop the vocals getting lost in the mix. THERE ARE NO PIG SQUEALS HERE PEOPLE.

The guitar duo of old hand Bobby Thompson and ex-Despised Icon guitarist Al Glassman provide a fantastic focal point for the music, creating elaborate and atmospheric riffs and consistently enjoyable shredding. They constantly try new things with expert precision, and never really fail to pull anything off. The song writing keeps up with the technical aspect, reigning in the guitar wankery with admirable authority and keeping the music focused as opposed to the meandering feel of a lot of tech death. The bass...well, you can't hear it, but I have no doubt that it's just lovely.

The album is also very well structured - the tracks are all good enough that you won't really want to skip any tracks in order to get to the meat and potatoes of the album - and one thing to say about Job for a Cowboy is that they achieve an atmosphere with startling efficiency. The feeling of impending doom is constant throughout, amplified by the superb slower sections which radiate ominous ambience.

Overall, Job for a Cowboy remains a suitable indicator of where modern death metal is, but for once in their career that may not be such a bad thing. Death metal as it originally was is dead, and this is probably a good thing - if it just stayed the same it'd just age and end up like metalcore, bland and monotonous. The bands have accepted this, old and new, but a disturbing contingent of the fandom is refusing to move on. The albums of your childhood are still great, people, and they're not going anywhere, but a genre stays alive when the new bands take the old bands' influences and do something new. Slayer and Kreator have always been popular, and that's been the key to death metal's longevity, but if the elitists get their way, the old bands would influence the new bands, and nothing would change. Death metal would stagnate and die, and no-one wants that. Job For A Cowboy's new direction represents an alternative; resolutely death metal, undoubtedly influenced by the Deicides and Cannibal Corpses of this world, but willing to forge their own musical identity. And if Ruination isn't just an anomaly, but indicative of their song writing ability, they're the perfect band to lead the new generation.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

BrokeNCYDE - I'm Not A Fan...But The Kids Like It!

One of the latest entries to the rather good web comic Questionable Content has one character describe his fascination with extreme internet fetish photography a la as "extreme anthropology", which I think sums up my attitude towards BrokeNCYDE. I've listened to them a few times before as they provide a fascinating snapshot of modern popular culture, or to be more precise, a snapshot of how a meteorite smashing into the earth's surface and extinguishing all life on the planet may not be such a bad thing. As a result, they've been a subject of morbid fascination for me for a while now. They play a form of hip-hop known as crunk, which you may have heard of if anyone you know is clinically retarded. Their selling point is that their rapper also does high Oli Sykes screams, which put them within my jurisdiction, and apparently this screeching is enough to completely ensnare the scene kid demographic. Anyway, they've made quite the splash on the ol' MySpace, and as their debut full album is out soon, I figure I'll let my voice be heard about now.

BrokeNCYDE's new album, I'm Not a Fan.. But the Kids Like It! is the worst album I've ever listened to.

Just take a moment to really experience that last sentence. In the seventeen years I have been listening to music, I have never heard an album of inferior quality. Insane Clown Posse, Limp Bizkit, AxCx, none of these bands have created such aural hate crimes as these musical criminals.

The album starts with...well with something that is supposed to be an intro, I think, but is actually just what sounds like a synthesizer making random noises, and already I'm reminded of my Waking the Cadaver review, so that's not good. Like the WTC album, it then goes into the album proper, and, like the WTC album, I wish it hadn't.

I have a fundamental problem with crunk as a genre; as a fusion of rap and groove-oriented electronica, the backing tracks are universally horrible, oversimplified and insubstantial, and this album is no exception; the same synthesiser riff and bass-clap-bass-clap for a song if you're lucky, the album if you aren't. It's supposed to be danceable, and I have no doubt that it works, but these guys are just so musically insipid that surely no-one with self respect COULD dance to them. They even have the same pan-pipes sound Lady Gaga overuses. It just feels sterile and dull, which is a problem I have with a lot of electronic music, but BrokeNCYDE completely fail to interest me even more than most with their musical aspect. On the plus side, it is catchy, but honestly all that does is make me want to kill myself every time I find myself humming it. Why is it that most of my negative reviews have “On the plus side, it is catchy”? It’s perhaps revealing about the kind of band who needs to rely on catchiness.

Then there are the vocals. The rather unimpressive clean singing is manipulated by computer to weird the pitch up, which is an alright effect (albeit one which Daft Punk did a lot better over a decade ago), but unfortunately it was beyond the abilities of modern technology to make the rapping anything other than abysmal. The tone of voice is snide and self-satisfied; a Latino rich kid rapping about a girl making his "peepee hard" has no right to sound smug. The screaming is actually depressing, that the difference this instils in a band from the rest of their genre justifies them claiming it as a whole new one. It's whiny, largely inhaled and completely pointless - screaming works in metal and hardcore as a tone-free way to do lyrics without overshadowing the instrumentals, and as a way to register anger, frustration or aggression. BrokeNCYDE have no backing music worth devoting much attention to, and there is no trace of the aforementioned emotions, or indeed, any human emotion, within BrokeNCYDE's music.

Then there are the lyrics. As some of you may have noticed, I rarely talk about lyrics, and it's even rarer that it factors into my overall opinion of the band. But this is essentially a hip-hop band, so the lyrics are supposed to be a focal point; they're supposed to be interesting, intelligent and varied. The lyrics here all explore one theme; being in a nightclub – that means sex, drugs and really bad jewellery. And they are terrible lyrics; uninteresting, badly written and at times embarrassing to listen to. Also, here we have more repetition; they talk about nothing else, and the crunk staple of lines being repeated ad verbatim is present and correct. As a result, there is almost no variation in this album. Here is the makeup of a BrokeNCYDE song:

  1. Synth riff
  2. Bad screaming and rapping over same synth riff, possibly expanded, and two-piece drum beat.
  3. Computer manipulated singing over same synth riff, and two-piece drum beat.
  4. Repeat until end of song.
  5. Repeat until end of album

And at NO POINT is this deviated from, apart from a really bad skit involving a misdialled booty call.

And the lyrics are actually quite troubling too; in the world BrokeNCYDE populate, women are interchangeable cumbuckets who should be completely submissive to men, and exist only for sexual gratification. And date rape is fine, guys, just keep drugging her until she sucks you off (a strange preoccupation of this band). And guess what! Constant drug and alcohol abuse are great fun, and not something that'll fuck you up for life! All women should aspire to is being a booty call and all guys should aspire to is to nag their daddies into getting them grills and an SUV...actually, that sounds consistent with my generation.

But when it comes to the groups...bewildering appeal, I can't think of any way in which this music could be thought of as good - as rap it fails to inspire lyrically and as dance music it should by all rights embarrass those who hear it into stillness. But the most terrifying thing is that they're completely serious. They're not self-aware in their lack of quality, this is generally both the best music they could make, and representative of what they think awesome music is, both of which say a lot about them and their impressive 140,000 myspace friends - I suspect the government depopulation list contains many of these deviant minds in need of culling. And this completely serious band is liked on a completely serious level by a large number of people, people of my generation, people who will go on to become doctors, architects and politicians. And that fills me with terror, because if this is representative of club culture, and these fans of said culture are the next generation, then the only thing to do is nuke Ibiza from orbit and just take the depleted workforce, because at least then we won't be seeing judges with big neon t-shirts that say "SKEET SKEET" in balloon writing.

P.S. Here're some of the things that much wittier people than myself have said about the album, or the ensuing music video “Freaxxx” (the “Warren” mentioned a few times is Warren Ellis of Transmetropolitan fame, who posted the video on his blog along with...disparaging comments):

"This is simply abysmal. If this video had a face, I would punch it in the balls." - Justin McSheene

"If my kids ever listened to this music I would beat the living shit out of them. I seriously cannot believe this is a real song." - "street shark"

"What exactly were they thinking? Combining screamo bullshit with faggot rap is like setting up an international play starring Hitler and Oprah. It just doesn't and should never happen for so many reasons. This could possibly be the apocalypse." - Ben Stein

"what. the. fucking. fuck. warren.

Promise us now you will never hurt us like this again.
hate myself now for being the same species.

why." - Henchbot

"These people must not breed. Surely there must be something we can do?" - James Lillis

"The Spartans used to leave the malformed, brain damaged, or generally useless babies on a hilltop to be eaten by wolves. I now think this is a cracking good idea. Thanks, Warren." - Chris Noble

"Are… are we sure they’re not some elaborate spoof band? I mean… there’s a dancing pig. In the video. A real band would not do that. Right? It’s a very detailed parody. I need to believe this, or I have no reason to continue living." - "Christine"

"I am not a violent man. In fact, I was educated in Quaker schools for most of my childhood and spend my summers volunteering with an international peace program. That said, I can’t ever recall wanting to hit a musician in the face quite so much as I do now." - Toby S.

"I’ve never wanted anyone to have cancer before.
but there is a first time for everything" - Nezar

"...even if I caught Prince Harry and Gary Glitter adorned in Nazi regalia defecating through my grandmother’s letterbox I would still consider making them listen to this album too severe a punishment. And she’s just had new carpets put in. BrokeNCYDE – a crunk/gangsta/screamo/R&B hybrid – should be respected and feared in the same way that Captain Kirk respects and fears the Klingons, which is why I’m firing intergalactic blue nuclear death straight at their fat fucking faces. It’s like having an Auto-Tuned, crack-addled Cher with a hard-on bearing down on you singing, “Let’s get freaky”. - NME

“There is absolutely no substance whatsoever in their songs and no passion in anything they do. It is the musical equivalent of a snow cone” - SENSES FAIL’s Buddy Nielsen

"It really is one of those "fall of Western culture" moments. It’s a near-perfect snapshot of everything that’s shit about this point in the culture.

It is, however, going to be one of those great Litmus tests. If you meet someone who likes this? Even if they profess to like it in an "ironic," knowing, media-aware kind of way? Then they’re a turd with a haircut." - WARREN ELLIS.

“If you share any similarity with a band like brokeNCYDE you’re almost guaranteed to have me not like your band” - STEVE FUCKING ALBINI

PPS. Kathrine Katz is probably the hottest member of Agoraphobic Nosebleed. I also wish Scott Hull was my dad.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Two Weird, Brilliant CDs

Right, a double review today.

Isis - Wavering Radiant

The thing I like most about alternative music is it's aversion to orthodoxy; unoriginality is condemned and innovation is championed in equal measure. As a result, my favourite bands in any given genre will usually be those who strive for something greater than what their compatriots are doing; one of the most notable bands to be doing this is Isis. Ten years ago, the former sludge metal band broke away from the mould set by Down, Crowbar and Eyehategod and attempted to follow in the footsteps of the superlative Neurosis by making progressive, meandering atmospheric metal focused on walls of distorted, yet delicate, sound crashing like waves in a storm and soft, sparse guitars reminiscent of gentle tides. The product was the classic Oceanic. With this one album, both indie rock lovers and metalheads had an art-metal standard to wave above their heads victoriously. Everything that has followed within the post-metal canon has followed this template with admirable determination - Cult Of Luna, Pelican, The Ocean Collective and more owe their success to the popularisation of their genre that Aaron Turner et all managed to achieve. However, as of late there has been a rather sludgy rate of progress in the genre of progressive sludge, which it would seem has apparently not gone unnoticed. Isis have once again swooped in and altered their style; whether it's an improvement, however, is questionable.

The most noticeable thing is the complete change of the mix; the atmosphere of post-metal was always helped be the production and the sound as much as the music. Whereas before Aaron Turner's voice had been buried in the mix, here it has been lifted with to the forefront; it was similar with their last release, In the Absence of Truth, but here it's taken to a far greater extent. And while this may seem like a good thing to someone who hasn't listened to them, the atmospheric value of a lone howl amongst crashing guitars was one of their great assets - indeed, it was this which first made me like them at the beginning of their song So Did We. Without this, the instruments seem less expansive than they were before, and this is a BIG problem; sound so all-consuming that it even blots out the vocals in one of Isis' defining features. However, the problems with the production, no matter how jarring to older fans, can't hide the fact that, as ever, the songwriting is brilliant.

One of the best comments I heard about this album was that Isis' motivation for their music is to make such intelligent, arty metal that it undoes the damage caused by Limp Bizkit's attracting all the frat boys; this album continues the trend of being both arty and intelligent. Imagine a fusion of Opeth's soft parts and Mastodon's heavy parts, and inject a whole load of wistful melancholy and you've got this album down. An exercise in taste, elegance and power, Isis have this extraordinary ability to write songs that are long and meandering and still be interesting. They still maintain their minimalist writing style of the same riff played over and over again, changing and evolving, before suddenly morphing into something entirely new. Every song, and with one exception, the shortest is 7:05, progresses naturally and in a mesmerising fashion. Isis have utilised a more accessible sound to really re-approach their signature sound, and they've done alright. It's no Oceanic or Panopticon, but it's good.

Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade

I mentioned earlier how I prize imagination in music; this has kept me interested in no genre more than black metal. Yes, those familiar with the kvlt image peddled by most of the Norwegian lot are often far too willing to forget the experimental side of the genre, but since the beginning, we've had bands like Ulver or Shining messing with the genre to their own ends. Indeed, the modern scene is one as branched as can be seen in metal; nowhere is this more explored than the vibrant US black metal scene. Here, we have the prevalence of the Ambient Black Metal scene. Largely cribbing from the notes of Burzum and Shining, even this subgenre of black metal has it's own subgenres; Xasthur, Niflheim and Leviathan cover the Depressive Black Metal genre, that I've mentioned I'm a fan of, and Atmospheric Black Metal, which borrows from the post-metal and folk genres to devastating effect; played by bands such as Velvet Cacoon and Summoning. And the best of this genre is the almighty Wolves in the Throne Room.

The story of Wolves in the Throne Room is far-fetched even by black metal standards; and in a genre with the recluse Malefic or the gay woodsman Gaahl, that's saying something. Two brothers and a friend, the whole band live on a self-sufficient commune with their respective families. The only exposure to electricity they get is when they're playing music; the only time they eat food they didn't grow themselves is when they're on tour. They're like the Amish only awesome. Their previous two albums, in particular their sophomore effort Two Hunters (my favourite black metal album) are some of the best things black metal has produced to date. A new album from them is a big deal.

This is one occasion where "more of the same" is no bad thing. Every element of the creation of the album - music, performance, vocals, tempo, production, mixing - is perfectly done to encapsulate the synthesis of Burzum-inspired black metal, gorgeous post-metal and atmospheric folk that WITTR do better than anyone. Slow, echoing and mournful, the music on this album achieves what every great piece of great black metal does; it created intense beauty out of raw, complex music. Each song essentially uses the same components, but approaches them in different ways. The great thing about this band is the dynamic nature of their music; it's constantly changing and evolving, becoming more brilliant each second a track is playing. It's a testament to the amazing writing ability of WITTR that their style is so much more original and fascinating than it should be; these wonderful pieces of music undoubtedly draw on Burzum and Isis, but it's still unique and unmistakably within the style that the band has created. A great album from the best band in black metal.

P.S. I've promised myself that I won't review the same band twice unless it's notable, but I'd just like to say that the new Sunn is awesome, and continues the band's efforts to utterly destroy people's preconceptions of music with even greater reaches of experimentation, a continued trend for superb guest contributions (Atilla Csihar and superb soprano Jessika Kinney, as well as the efforts of avant-garde composer Eyvind Kang, and legend that is Dylan Carlson) and that special Sunn O))) ability to utterly overwhelm the listener with sheer sonic power. Go experimental drone doom!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Iwrestledabearonce - Self-titled EP

Right, I have returned, after my brief foray into rather elitist video game journalism. Sorry to the, like, four of you who read this blog, but I've been feeling a little bored of writing reviews as of late. I like writing either very positive reviews or bone crushingly negative reviews, and I've just flung praise wildly at Devil Sold His Soul, so I need a stinker to go a little nuts on. Unfortunately, it's been a while since I heard an album which was bad enough to warrant a review; I was gonna do Architects "Hollow Crown", but it's much better than I thought it was at first listening, then I was gonna wait until The Boy Will Drown's debut and rail on that, but I have a horrible suspicion that it'll actually be rather good. Fortunately I've found a suitable punching bag.

One of the things that is honestly, genuinely wrong with this generation of metal kids is that practically no-one actually knows what grindcore is. Most of them have never heard of Napalm Death, Nasum, Pig Destroyer, Rotten Sound and the rest, and have instead used the term to refer to a very particular brand of metalcore. A kind of crossover of mathcore and deathcore, this new genre, which I like to refer to as "spazzcore" (alternately " 'tardcore), consists of genero-breakdowns, spastic flailing on guitars, pretensions of "atmospheric" parts and a vocalist who alternates between pig-brees and the kind of high scream that resembles the shop security whistles used to ward off teens. See You Next Tuesday, early The Boy Will Drown and War From A Harlot's Mouth all qualify for this, but perhaps the epitome is the "hilarious" Iwrestledabearonce

Formed of what appear to be the participants for "World's Reddest Necks" disqualified because that much inbreeding counts as cheating even in Louisiana, they're the kind of band who think that the best thing a band can be is ironic. As such, I can only assume that most of their fans only listen to them ironically, because someone who can genuinely milk enjoyment from this probably escaped from special school halfway through an impromptu lobotomy. Here's a list of some of the "fun" or "experimental" things they do in their songs:

  • The aforementioned guitar wankery which appears to have never actually heard something with musical structure, but perhaps read about the idea once. Just because you CAN play a million notes a second doesn't mean you SHOULD. Fast playing is there to embelish melody with depth and variety, not to make a tuneless blur of notes.
  • Over forced ambient sections which just come across as trying to better War From A Harlot's Mouth's rather good random jazz interludes. On the other hand, at least uninteresting electronica sections provide a break from the one-note main sections.
  • They rip off Enter fucking Shikari. If a self-proclaimed "grindcore" band are taking inspiration from Enter shitcunting Shikari, well then, everything has truly gone to pot.
  • Randomly inserting the Inspector Gadget theme is neither big nor clever. Using it as a breakdown is actually a cardinal sin, just above being the guy who writes the puns for newspaper headlines.

Now imagine the aforementioned quirks are pasted inbetween repetitive blast beat-filled parts which couldn't inspire headbanging in a jack-in-the-box and dull, thoughtless breakdowns, and repeated ad infinitum. That is the totality of the EP. How they're going to stretch this shit to a full length is beyond me, but I suspect they'll stick with the winning formula they convulsed out on this EP.

At risk of being as repetitive as that which I'm criticizing, two things I mentioned in previous reviews suddenly seem relevant. In my Waking The Cadaver review I mentioned that I resented a track of them doing weed because they were obviously having more fun than I did listening to the album. Every misplaced transition from one section to another, every "hey, try this" moment, every over-shredded breakdown makes me feel like that. They're obviously enjoying themselves, but it's a shame I'm not. Secondly, in my Sunn O))) review I mentioned that if an experimental band is serious about abandoning musical conventions, they must have a solid idea of what they're replacing it with. Every other section Iwrestledabearonce come up with is some half-formed turd of an impulse, and it feels like they're just throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. And when it does stick, expect to hear it again, and again, and again.

However, criticizing this album is kind of a hollow victory, because I get the impression this band might as well just be one big joke. So much is played for laughs (without being genuinely funny, like, say, Beneath The Buried and Me's line-dancing sections, or HORSE the band's general brilliance) that my criticism is like insulting someone's mum based on a comment they made that may or may not have been them insulting their mum. 

But then I remember that the "irony" defence is logic armour on par with the "It was just a social experiment" defence. Whether you're genuinely retarded or knowingly, self-awarely retarded, you'll still be required to wear a bib when you're eating. Just because certain parts of this EP are deliberately bad doesn't excuse them for being so.

And they're not grindcore.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

My random thoughts; life-changing video games you probably won't play.

First off, there's a review coming later - later today, hopefully. But right now I'd like to talk about the state of gaming at the moment, in that it is slowly but surely dying on its arse. The home consoles are dominated by either pre-school-shooting gun-nut teens or the kind of retard who honestly thinks of a MIDI synthesizer powered by waving your arms around as revolutionary gaming. The handhelds have occasionally realised potential, but the home console spazz brigade are steadily enroaching on that with their casual gaming shit. The PC stands tall, proud and aloof as it always has, despite constant bawwwing from the consoles that they're in some way superior, but the pirating community has - shock-horror! - proved to not actually be a good thing for gaming, and the developers are refusing to work on PC titles.

There are steps which could be taken to get away from the end of great gaming. Largely they are unworkable; such steps include Microsoft abandoning all home console activities and using its connections to power forward the PC. The PS3 would have to pick up the slack; it's not like Sony has a lack of experience dominating the video game market. And, of course there would need to be more games like Bioshock.

Bioshock came out in 2007, having been developed over the course of over four years by Irrational Games (or 2K Boston as they are now known). Written by Ken Levine, writer of sister title System Shock 2, it was a first person shooter with elements of puzzle games and RPGs (though the RPG influence was minimal in practice). It revolved around the shooting of enemies with pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, rocket launchers etc. and a pretty standard array of magic attacks or "plasmids" (fire, ice, lightning and - peculiarly - bees). There was also a boss at the end, and a recurring mini-boss throughout.

And here we have why gameplay alone is not all that can make a game great.

The game is set in the broken ruins of a objectivist dystopia overrun by the great and the good's desires and abilities when the boundaries were removed. The enemies were "splicers", citizens driven to madness in their desparate search for plasmids, a cure-all to all life's problems, and ADAM, the powering factor to make it happen. The environments were beautiful and terrifying; stately art-deco and almost-tacky prosperity cracked with age and overrun with constant-flowing water, reflecting the themes of perfection and corruption. The Little Sister system provides the only instance in a game I've played where "moral choice" moments actually inspired an emotional response. And there is one twist - the crux of the story - which deserves to go down in history as one of the greatest moments in gaming; a stunning evaluation of our place as gamers within games, all summed up in three perfect words.

This was an art game with a budget behind it. And it sold; it was after all a very pretty first person shooter. I've never heard comparatively casual gamers discuss the themes and ideas of a game in a way that Bioshock inspired. It was a breakthrough; the equivalent of Shadow of the Collosus succeeding. But it revealed a problem with the current generation. Namely, that it is going to be next to impossible to make a commercially competitive art game in this day and age.

If you can remember it, think of the excruciatingly PS2 gem Okami. Unique, gorgeous, charming and immensely fun to play, it nonetheless sold about as well as if it was sold dripping with cold urine. The same goes for Ico and the brilliant Psychonauts. Risky games don't sell. They are by their nature indulgences, and the demand for high-end graphics and other such costly ventures leaves such indulgences out of the question. Ergo, there will be no games released which will be interesting QED.

Well, actually no.

I'd like to talk about some art games which are being made, or have been made, which you should play.

Whenever I see the trailer tot his game I want to stark bouncing up and down in my seat, clapping and giggling hysterically. WHen I say that this game has a charming aesthetic, I don't mean in the CUTE-written-in-80-foot-high-letters way that LittleBigPlanet has a charming aesthetic. I mean that it's the visual equivalent of the phrase "omnomnom". The animation, the character design, the stage composition is endearing as anything I've ever seen; all day glo and big pixels and sheer cuteness. The gameplay is...well to call it a 2D platformer is misleading; the game is set in a 3D world which you can only interact with in a 2D way, with puzzles requiring you to turn the game world in order to solve some of the most ingenious levels and puzzles in videogames. I want this game more than words can describe.

This game is free. This game is out. This game takes five minutes to play. This game, in five minutes, can reduce you to tears. Made by Jason Rohrer, a man whose family of four live on less than $10,000 a year so that he can make the gaming equivalent of poetry, this is a game of life. You have no excuse not to play it.

The Path
Little Red Riding Hood as imagined by Tim Burton if he was a european arthouse film director. The most graphically impressive game on this list, it's, like Passage, not a game concerned with fun. It's about telling a story, a dark, grim story. My writing hero, Kieron Gillen, called it "probably art", but "...profoundly disturb[ing in] its portrayal of teenage years as doomed fatalists" in his typically superb review, which you should read right now to save me writing more.
It's £7.25 on Steam and will fuck you up.

A student product, a rhythm-based shooter which reminds me of the superb Rez. No-one played that, so instead, I'll call it Guitar Hero meets any isometric shooter you've ever played. It's brilliant.

And finally, you should probably look at anything on here.

Jason Rohrer's Homepage (where you can download Passage and all his other games)

Fez Trailer

Tale of Tales' Homepage

Monday, 30 March 2009

Devil Sold His Soul - A Fragile Hope

Sturgeon's law is a perjorative adge which details that "90% of everything is crap". This in mind, I'm quite pleased to see that I've managed to maintain a 1:2 ratio of wheat to chaff. I like to think of myself as an optimist, albiet one who regularly uses threats of violence as descriptive writing in a review. As such, I'd like to redress the balance by recommending to you an album which is, let's not mince words, fucking sweet.

Devil Sold His Soul are a band formed from the remenants of a super-influential UK hardcore band who literally no-one has ever heard of, but who mixed hardcore with my personal favourite genre of the moment, post-metal (A highly atmospheric take on doom/sludge metal - listen to Isis "Oceanic" for the quintessential post-metal experience) which is a combination akin to peanut butter and strawberry jam, but less overdone. Indeed, the impact of metalcore may seem a rather uncomfortable juxtaposition to the meandering, artistic depth of post-metal, but apparently this worked for "Muhamodo" (yes, that was their name) so well that they've continued refining the formula to almost weaponised form (I like to think for use against Parkway Drive) in their latest project, Devil Sold His Soul.

Indeed, "A Fragile Hope", their debut LP, is not for the ninja-pitting instant gratification crowd, not for the over-pretentious types who don't want any -core in their post-rock, and certainly not for the kind of person who looked upon my Bring Me The Horizon paddling session as anything less than totally deserved. This is for those of us who still have that little bit of hope for metalcore, that one day Converge, Between The Buried and Me and Bury Your Dead will ride in on white stallions and cast anyone who thinks new Architects is better than "Ruin" era into the firey abyss to be eternally damned. Indeed, this album reminds me of a song I got on a Metal Hammer CD which was a sole piece of clear sky in the heavens of a metalcore genre more than ready to rain all over my "Metal is art" parade; "Inheritor" by a Norwegian band called Benea Reach. I've never been able to track down a copy of the album, but I have no doubt that this is better than that album could ever be. Intense, crackling ambience gathering and building, rising and falling before fulminating into scarring metalcore storms or heartfelt clean singing.  The ambient moments are perfectly pitched; simplistic drums and bass accompanied by a sparse vista of guitar music, perfectly textured and written as well as anything I've ever heard, and the hardcore/metalcore moments give a feeling of rare vulnerability that can only come from genuine emotional release. Every note has taste, meaning and necessity, every section would lessen the overall song with it's exclusion. Each moment brings an atmosphere of tragedy, sorrow and frustration, utterly ferocious and yet so beautiful in it's raw emotion that it overwhelms. It's unbelievable that such a young band could capture the gorgeousness of Isis and the heartfelt viciousness of Converge, and not just mimic it, but completely understand why it's being done.

The only problem I can think of is that I'm not sure precisely when I'm going to listen to this. If I want really pretty atmospheric sludge why am I not listening to Isis? If I want really counterintuitively pretty metalcore why am I not listening to Architects? Devil Sold His Soul aren't a halfway point I'm entirely convinced are neccesary. That said, I'm halfway to thinking that I'll listen to this twice as much as I'll listen to either of those bands; certainly these guys are dramatically better than Architects.

Indeed, "A Fragile Hope" is an album that doesn't just dabble in either metalcore or post-metal, it makes both genres work together wonderfully, while creating a unique sound which gives the best of both these genres serious competition. I can only give this album the highest possible recommendation.

Bring Me The Horizon - Suicide Season

Right, to provide context, I'm one of the few guys within the tr00 metal fraternity who gave BMTH's debut a good review (I'm also one of the few who finds it acceptable to replace letters with numbers; I suspect there's overlap). Count Your Blessings was an album that gave metalcore fangs; it didn't care about clean vocal choruses or dual harmonies to ease the tension, it cared about blast beats, guitars that sound like pitch-shifted chainsaws and the infamous Oli Sykes giving a vocal performance which must have stripped the lining from his throat. It was a near-unrelenting mass of churning riffs and the kind of crunching breakdowns which must have absolutely killed live (Of course, there's a school of thought which says that breakdowns actively detract from metal since they're from hardcore, but these people forget that they weren't so snippy about hardcore influence giving us metalheads thrash metal, so I let such self-indulgent nonces go fuck themselves). Plus those who criticise their aesthetic forget that when they started, emo was the big thing and everyone expected them to start crooning, so to hear brutal metalcore was a musical oxymoron unparalleled since Helmet; they were a band who you could not read by it's cover. Except now you can. Through the process of extensive calming-the-fuck-down, this album sounds exactly like how you'd expect a popular modern metal band to. One huge chunk of their charm is gone right from the start, and it doesn't end there.

Right, let's start at the top. Bring Me The Horizon have been touring extensively with Brighton hardcore mob Architects, and it seems to have rubbed off because Oli's new main vocal style is a weedy hardcore yelp not entirely dissimilar to Sam Carter's new vocal style (which has also mellowed from a more abrasive, and thus better, style, but that's a review for another time). This unfortunately makes the saccharine b-grade emo lyrics a hell of a lot harder to digest than when he sounded like he was trying to project his own blood onto the listener. Sure it's more accessible but one of the great points about this band was that they were unexpectedly inaccessible. Likewise, the superb guitar tone of CYB is absent, and filling in is a guitar tone which sounds like a synthesiser. Seriously, these guitars, combined with a new-found love of sampling and electronica, makes this sound like if Pendulum tried to make modern hardcore and failed miserably; the riffs' weight is GONE, the breakdowns' weight is GONE. Indeed, the riffs are gone; the guitars do nothing interesting throughout the entire album except try pathetically hard to mimic Bury Your Dead. That the drumming is equally insipid shows through one of the album's main flaws; Frederik Nordstrom has done an uncharacteristically horrible production job, particularly regarding the thin, baseless mixing (and that annoying problem with crash cymbals that sounds like you're listening to them through a cardboard tube).

However, maybe we need to adjust our expectations; even the band acknowledges that this is not a continuation of what they were doing before they smelt the wafting scent of faux-disaffected teens' money and vaginal juices. Maybe we should evaluate the album's purpose; if CYB was about screaming every bit of hurt back in the face of your ex and then punching her until all movement stopped, this is about making the alternative music equivalent of dance music. This is not deathcore; indeed, it was never ment to be. This is music purpose-built for stick-thin, immaculately groomed teens to ninja-pit to, and as such it's scarily effective. Though the horrible mix doesn't help, the songs are catchy as fuck, and every riff could pass enough for dance music that it achieves that metal's near constant failing of being genuinely danceable. On top of this, and I say this with bitter resentment, it grows on you like poison ivy, in my case about as welcomely as the analogy suggests (there's nothing more annoying to a snob such as myself as when something patently rubbish becomes enjoyable). It's made to entertain BMTH's target audience to the maximum degree, and bends over backwards to please the listeners. And that's where it fails more than anything.

You see, alternative music is there to fulfil the artist. All the great metal bands played the music that they wanted to hear, not what they thought other people wanted to hear. That's the difference between art and entertainment, and if you want to make musical entertainment, MAKE POP MUSIC. This CD was made to please the fans and as such feels distinctly lacking in the passion and energy of the debut. CYB have the impression that the band were hurling themselves round the recording space, whereas Suicide Season, in all its consummate professionalism, sounds like a band who aren't giving anything of themselves to the album. Bring Me The Horizon have become the elitist-perpetuated stereotype of themselves - a musical mess with the gaps usually containing conviction and passion filled with breakdowns and hairspray - and in doing so have both endeared the scenesters and alienated the more metal-orientated listeners who stuck to a derided but genuinely good metal band. The horrible - and uniquely genuine - mainstream-pandering that this album offers makes it the only time I've ever considered using the term "mallcore"; this is indeed both no longer metal and unabashedly commercially aimed. There's not the ignitive spark, the tangible fury of the debut, but even on it's own merits, it comes across as lifeless. Indeed, the best track is the suitably vicious "No Need for Introductions, I've Read About Girls Like You on the Backs of Toilet Doors", a grindcore-length burst of brutality which was purpose built as an outlet for Oli (concerning recent assault allegations), like they didn't want such feeling in their other songs. Maybe if this kind of explosive passion was still there, they could have made a much better album.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Sunn O))) - Black One

Okay; first of all, if you don't have an open mind with music then I can guarantee that you will hate Sunn O))); hell, I listen to all kinds of shit and still assumed right off the bat that I wouldn't get the point of this album. Sunn O))) have a reputation for being as impenetrable as a T-90 heavy tank and about as capable of making the ground shake; their weapons of choice are minimalist composition (read "the same bass rhythm for 12 minutes"), droning bass and electronic noises, faint black metal riffs and growling feedback. However, their "White" series are considered avant-garde opuses and the "Black One" features both Wrest, of Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice and Twilight and Malefic, the misanthropic mastermind of black metal night-terrors Xasthur, as  guest vocalists (I heartily recommend all the aforementioned bands), so I thought I'd give it a go.

 The presentation of the disk is very nice, if coming across as clinging to the coat-tails of the left-field black metal scene; the cover art is as ominous as it is nonsensical, but could easily be made for Blut Aus Nord, or Leviathan, or Krallice, or anyone else for that matter. A quick peek at the lyrics follow the same trend; I almost hope Wrest and Malefic wrote the lyrics themselves as I was kind of hoping such a strange band would be less generic.

 Having never experienced them before, I had no idea going into the experience whether this was their experimental album - Wikipedia seems to define all their albums as such - but the slow, murky trickle of ambient noise instantly unnerved me. Distorted drum beats and what sounds like low groaning opens the album's intro, "Sin Nanna" are probably how I should be describing the sounds produced but I can guarantee that what you're imagining is not what this sounds like; Gregory Anderson and Stephen O'Malley have created something unlike certainly anything I've ever heard before. This aural collage goes on for about two minutes before the first proper track starts; slow black metal guitars layered over the most intense bass I've ever come across in music; one long, droning sequence played again and again, hypnotically rhythmic and high enough in the mix that even with my bass speaker turned down I could feel the air around me pulsing. Wrest's vocal performance is nothing less than extraordinary, as can be expected from the leader of underground US black metal. The track is surprisingly easy to listen to thanks to the prominence of the guitars giving a recognisable focal point; indeed, it seems like drumless, slowed down black metal, which is not a bad thing.

 Following track "Cursed Realms (Of the Winterdemons)", a cover of the notorious Immortal takes this idea and runs with it, becoming almost farcically "kvlt". Malefic's on vocals this time round, at first screeching amidst literal arctic winds (they actually sent a crew to Antarctica to get the recording, though sadly they did NOT make Malefic himself howl away there) before bass and industrial distortion takes over again. To reiterate, they have Malefic, who is black metal incarnate, howling Immortal lyrics amid ACTUAL ARCTIC FUCKING WINDS. Soon the track becomes a more "normal" Sunn O))) track, complete with thundering bass and guitars. And oh! the guitars in this album. An approach which in unique in my experience, Sunn O))) play guitar not for the note, but for the sound of it fading and feeding back into a shrill whine. The effect achieved is nothing less than superb, fading in and out of thick distortion and culminating in simple, yet consumingly atmospheric riffs. Eventually the static of the track overwhelms the speakers and the track ends.

 The rest of the tracks are largely "typical" Sunn O))), with ominous doom riffs at least half as slow as they should be and the usual intense bass. But there is one more highlight; closer "Bathory Erzsebet", named after both notorious cannibal/faux vampire Elizabeth Bathory and black metal band Bathory (this song is in fact a reimagining of the aforementioned band's "A Fine Day To Die"). Until 7:03 this song is just computer- manipulated bass but it suddenly erupts into the unusually dissonant guitars and the centrepiece of the album; the claustrophobic Malefic, locked inside a coffin for recording, delivering vocals that are part black metal screech and part terrified cries - a microphone inside the coffin even lets us hear his panicked breathing. This pure, distilled terror makes for one of the most uncomfortable vocal performances ever recorded - the man deserves a Grammy (that'll be taken by some posing musical harlot whose "genuine" musical performance will net millions while one man performing enraptured in true, utter horror goes unappreciated). 

Then, the album ends, and at this point if you'd asked me my opinion I wouldn't be able to give you one. About a minute after my first listen I just kind of continued browsing the internet, before suddenly feeling perplexed; if only for the feel of having the air around me vibrate, the music on Black One created a truly astonishing ambience. The utter coldness of ambience no black metal record has ever properly achieved, the stunning vocal performances and the bass that fills the room effortlessly, the wonderful production that makes for a perfectly defined wall of sound and the sheer, unparalleled uniqueness of it. I tried listening to other music but Black One's being designed for a heavy bass speaker means that despite overpowering bass the production holds, leaving everything else sounding tinny and unsatisfying (you know something wrong when Isis just doesn't sound deep enough).  This album isn't like other avant-garde music because this band isn't just rebelling against the musical rulebook; they have every intention that their aural collages will replace it. Their vision of what they want their music to be is completely formed, and it couldn't sound any better.

A lot of people won't like this; in fact, the vast, vast, VAST majority won't. I loved it. Find a good audio system, (with a good subwoofer) give it a try, and if you get it, it will be an addition to your collection unlike any you'll ever hear, and more satisfying than almost anything.


Sunday, 15 March 2009

Waking the Cadaver - Perverse Recollections of a Necromangler

Firstly, I'm going to get some facts straight. I like deathcore. I like appropriately used breakdowns (if it's good enough for Aborted, Suffocation and Dying Fetus, it’s good enough for me). I even tolerate (again, appropriately used) pig squeals. And yet I cannot bring myself to listen to this album again. Its pathetic ineptness is altogether embarrassing, both for them and for whoever actually spent money on this. This is the most pathetic death metal release I've heard in a very long time. Fortunately, it's just the kind of thing for a good old fashioned diatribe.

Firstly, let's talk initial impressions. I borrowed this from a friend out of a kind of morbid curiosity at whether or not they would have improved since the EP, so my priorities may be different from someone buying it commercially, but I saw the cover art and groaned. It's not what you'd call subtle. The track titles are similar; the kind of thing stoned teens giggle about between eating and becoming greasier with each passing moment. 

The disk is in, and fuck knows what the common-or-garden ambient intro was actually of, because after multiple listens I still had no goddamn clue. It leaks through into first proper track "Always Unprotected" which, after the remnants of the intro have disappeared, launches off into the kind of blastbeat-riddled UBER BR00T4L section that they still fail to pull off. That said, the attempt is less pathetic that that of the EP, partially thanks to the drummer actually having the common decency to, y'know, be halfway competent this time round, rather than losing the beat every fuckmothering five seconds, which is always a nice thought.

Unfortunately, the singer still has severe psychological and emotional issues, or at least that's the only justification I can think of for his ego allowing him to actually sing like that on record. He still sounds like a toad with throat cancer, and possesses all the vocal range of Stephen fucking Hawking. If anything, he's regressed past the standard he set in the EP, which is like saying Jorge "Hurley" Garcia has regressed past his standard he set in Lost Season 1 for sex appeal. I mean it, at least in the EP he had a repertoire of burping, pig squeeeeeeeel and a weedy mix of hardcore shout and death growl, whereas here the latter is "sadly" excluded in favour of more burps. Even then, Devourment-style full-lunged floor-shakers are out, weedy back-of-throat grumbles are in, and the piggies deserve credit for how much they actually sound like a piglet squealing, which, someone has neglected to tell WTC, is not a good thing. The Whitechapel/Misericordiam-style vocal walls of noise that piggies are supposed to be are best found elsewhere. 

But what is a WTC song actually made up of? Well, breakdowns mostly, and for a lot of bands, an inventive, blood-stirring 30-second breakdown within the context of a 3-4 minute song can make a song great, especially live. However WTC don't include breakdowns within the song structure. Breakdowns ARE the song structure, occasionally punctuated with the kind of faster sections mentioned above, afterthoughts at best, and are almost deliberately dull.

Now for the interesting part. How does it compare to the EP? I'd like to take a moment to compare the two versions of "Chased through the Woods by a Rapist", a song infamous for it's astonishing ability to reduce nearby listeners and small children into fits of laughter, not least because of some truly heroic lyrical interpretations ( The documentary intro is gone, probably because on a full-length there's no need for shameless space-padding. This is a track that suffers from the deeper vocals, although the mildly better drumming invokes less unintentional hilarity on the fast part. The guitars can still charitably be called boring and uncharitably called execrable, but fortunately due to the 90% breakdowns structure of the song, they're only playing half the time.

The lowest point is the inventively titled "Interlude", which is a sound bite of the band smoking cannabis; it's like they're laughing at me for having been stupid enough to endure the album by making me listen to them having more fun than I did at any point throughout the entire CD.

However, there is a slight upside that stops it being a failure unlike any other; something must have gone right during the song writing process because these songs are catchy, albeit in the same sense that leprosy is catchy. As much as I hate it, this is evidence that it doesn't fail on all accounts.

However, this is still a terrible, TERRIBLE album. Everything that's good about death metal and deathcore is either horribly abused or missing entirely; I'd complain about the lack of solos, experimentation or variation but the album is over a lot quicker with them. It’s the kind of album that can only be attractive to horribly misinformed people with a gore fetish and no knowledge of the death metal scene. Maybe it’s for the kind of person who watches YouTube videos of pigs eating other pigs as porn, or who’s really creepily into meat tenderising; those are certainly the kind of person who make up this band. We don’t understand them, but hell, perhaps they don’t understand why we don’t enjoy rubbing raw mince on our genitals.