Sunday, February 28, 2010

CHAINMAIL: From Exile - Monolith (self-released, 2009)

The CHAINMAIL section reviews bands that were proactive enough to contact me directly. Here at Cerebral Metalhead, initiative is rewarded.

How this unknown, unsigned studio project helmed by Atlanta resident Eric Guenther secured the production talents of Daath's Eyal Levi and journeyman drummer Kevin Talley (Dying Fetus, The Red Chord, Black Dahlia Murder, Decrepit Birth) is anyone's guess. So here's my guess: the band's talent is too obvious and massive to be ignored by anyone that hears 'em, labels be damned. Listen here for prog-metal without pretense, a huge album that packs a two-disc Dream Theater album's worth of musical fireworks and superior writing into its meager 32 minutes.

To put it in the feminine hygiene product vernacular, Monolith is a "heavy flow" kind of album. Less a collection of songs than a continuous suite of big bang music, most of Monolith sweeps across the shred-to-stomp continuum with plenty of luxurious solos from Levi and his Daath bandmate Emil Werstler for the rubbernecking (ed. - each of them contribute just one solo, though all the lead guitarwork is first-rate). There's fleet melodic death riffage that'll leave the soul julienned and imperial marches that mimic planet formation. Processed melodic vocals are tacked on to a few tracks as afterthoughts, and they're the only letdown here (only album I've heard that work the semi-robot vox well is Cynic's Traced In Air). Otherwise Monolith is a totally inspired, cohesive work, and proof that not all progressive metal has to be over-the-top in concept or execution to instill me with pride in my long-haired, scale-savvy brethren.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

v/a - They Don't Know Unless You Tell Them (FSS, 2010)

Taken to their logical limits, the tremolo guitars and slipstream drumming of black metal become so fast that they cease to function as rhythm and instead become pure drones. Buzz and beat as two forms of background noise. In that context, it's not so hard to draw a line between black metal and ambient/noise recordings. Even before Burzum obliterated the boundary between black metal and ambient aesthetics, the music coming out of Norway's second wave of black metal declared the sizzling atmosphere of its lo-fi recordings as nearly as important as the music itself.

For the past two years, Flingco Sound System has curated a roster that suggests ambient music and black metal are two parasitic vines, sucking off each other for the benefit of absolutely nobody. Now the label generously offers a 90-minute compilation of exclusive tracks from FSS artists and others whose work FSS admires, titled They Don't Know Unless You Tell Them. It's a wide-ranging beast of a comp, and there's something for everybody -- the noiseniks get the harsh soundscapes of Buer's "Dogwomb" and Grief No Absolution's "Befalling the End of One's Own Harpoon;" open-minded black metalheads will dig Hamsoken's hell-howling "Acrid Desire" and the surprisingly straightforward, and unsurprisingly awesome, crunch of "Mephitic Celebrator" by Wrnlrd (whose Oneiromantical War is reviewed here); No Anchor and Dead Meat both offer darkened, drugged-out rock music with proper human vocals. And there's oodles in between. It's not so much a "listen all the way through and love every minute of it" kind of comp as a "wow, I never realized how well this disparate shit could hang together" kind of comp.

They Don't Know Unless You Tell Them also comes with an amazing digital booklet in the form of two-sided, printable pdf playing cards. Each artist on the comp contribute visuals and the whole shebang was framed in designs by Wrnlrd (see the comp's cover above).

Download They Don't Know Unless You Tell Them:
MP3 format (237.8 MB)
Wav format (466.23 MB)

In other Flingco news, the label's released a curious lil' device called the Black Box:
This evil little battery-operated fucker is loaded with eerie loops from FSS artists Wrnlrd, Cristal, Haptic and also a spoken word piece from Annie Feldmeier Adams. My sense is that any good reason you'd have to buy this is a very, very private one. Perhaps it would make a good Valentine's Day gift for that special someone who hates you?

Buy the Black Box in its analog form for $15 here.
For those with digital proclitivites and an iPhone, purchase it as an iPhone app for $2.99 here.