Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Notable New Tracks of 4/8/2014

There have been three notable releases in my taste of metal today, and it would be pointless to write a separate article for each, so they will all be addressed in one article.

 New Orleans sludge band Crowbar has premiered a new track. With a new bassist, as well as Kirk Windstein having left supergroup Down to focus on Crowbar full time, fans have had high hopes for any new releases from the band. The new song, “Walk with Knowledge Wisely,” is certainly a fulfillment of those hopes.
Kirk Windstein once again proves himself the “riff lord” with this track, which is a fine example of the brutally crushing Crowbar sound. It presents what will hopefully be the feel of the new album, which will be called Symmetry in Black.

 Stoner rock classic Fu Manchu has also released a new song today, called “Invaders on My Back.” It is from their upcoming album, which will be called Gigantoid.
Fu Manchu have long been a favorite of the stoner rock scene, and for good reason. They have a fast and pummeling sound dripping with fuzz, and energetic vocals that complete the feel. The new track is no exception, and presents a good omen for the sound of the band’s upcoming album.

The third release today that I find notable and exciting is from sludge band Sourvein. While in the same genre as Crowbar, Sourvein has a much different and darker feel. The band features members of the seminal sludge/crust punk band Buzzov•en, and the new song is called “Follow the Light.”
As with all other Sourvein tracks, this song features slow and heavy sections, as well as sections with faster riffage. Sourvein is one of two notable bands formed out of Buzzov•en. The other is Weedeater, which coincidentally has also been teasing a new song. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

New Eyehategod Song: "Robitussin And Rejection"

New Orleans sludge metal band Eyehategod has released another song from their forthcoming self-titled album. The song is called "Robitussin and Rejection," and can be streamed via SoundCloud on Noisey.

The band had previously released another song, called "Agitation! Propaganda!" from the album, which was strongly based in hardcore. However, the new track is much slower and more dark. Instead of the bombastic fury of "Agitation! Propaganda!," "Robitussin and Rejection" gets its feeling of hatred from a much slower and more feedback-laden formula that gives it a much darker atmosphere.

Monday, March 17, 2014

New Down Song: "We Knew Him Well"

New Orleans sludge metal super group Down have just released a new track from their upcoming EP, Down IV Part II. The band is made up of members from many other prominent sludge bands from the NOLA scene: Jimmy Bower on drums (Eyehategod), Phil Anselmo on vocals (Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals), Pepper Keenan on guitar (Corrosion of Conformity), Pat Bruders on bass (formerly of Crowbar), and the recently added Bobby Landgraf on guitar (formerly of Honky), who replaced longtime Down member Kirk Windstein (Crowbar). The upcoming Down release will be Landgraf’s first with the band, and his playing on the newly released track “We Knew Him Well” shows real promise. The song can be streamed on SoundCloud:

The EP will be released on May 13, 2014 via Phil Anselmo’s Housecore records. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Eyehategod Song: "Agitation! Propaganda!"

In the aftermath of losing founding drummer Joey Lacaze, Louisiana sludge metal band Eyehategod has decided to get a new drummer and forge on. Although it is undoubtedly tough for the band losing a longtime core member, they have soldiered storms before, such as hurricane Katrina, as well as heroin addiction. While fans are all devastated by the loss of Lacaze, the band has just presented a sort of “light at the end of the tunnel”: a new song, and the announcement of a new album on May 26. Their new album is certainly going to be a bittersweet affair: the first Eyehategod record of all new material in fourteen years, but also the to feature Joey Lacaze (his drum tracks recorded before he died were used in the recording). All that said, however, the new tune the band just released, “Agitation! Propaganda!,” is stellar. 

It has a strong hardcore vibe rarely seen in the band’s catalogue, similar to their song “Peace Thru War (Thru Peace and War)” (found on the Dopesick album), but also features a sluggish and crushingly heavy slow section at the end, as is customary with Eyehategod. The band had released another song in 2012 (while Lacaze was still alive) called “New Orleans is the New Vietnam” that while being a solid song, had a different approach that seemed more straightforward than the rest of the band’s material and had fans (or at least me, personally) wondering how a new record would sound. But the group’s new song goes straight for the jugular. This gives me newfound hope that despite losing a vital member, Eyehategod will release a stellar and brutally heavy record as always.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Thoughts on Sleep’s "Dopesmoker"

Sleep is a stoner/doom metal trio from San Jose, California. They are known mainly for two releases: Holy Mountain, a seminal stoner metal album, and Dopesmoker, an album consisting of two songs: the sixty-three minute long title track, and an eleven minute live recording called “Sonic Titan.” Dopesmoker predictably presented some problems for the band, however. Their label, London Records, did not know what to think of such a massively long track, and refused to release it in its current form. The song was reworked in the studio down to fifty-two minutes under the title “Jerusalem, but there was little noticeable difference between the two and the label again refused to release it. Frustrated by the situation, the band broke up. The album was later released in its full form in 2003, then re-released with new artwork and an extra track in 2012.

There were several covers for the album over its many versions: the original Dopesmoker had a bearded rider atop a flying steed with many heads, and the trimmed version (called Jerusalem) featured a priest bowing before an altar. However, the one that I feel best embodies the song was the cover of the 2012 re-release. The lyrical content of the song is about a stoner caravan crossing through the holy land, and that is what was painted by artist Arik Roper, who was tasked with creating the cover.

While the caravan pictured may not appear to be crossing any Earthly desert (see: the two moons), this cover certainly gives the record the feel that the title track embodies: that of an epic journey, albeit one heavily affected by (or even created by) cannabis smoke, hence the title of the album. When actually listening to the song, it is best to isolate oneself from others, so as to ensure that the listening will not be interrupted, as well as simply allowing the listener to fully concentrate on what they are hearing. From there, let the music take you. The ebbing and flowing riffs create an atmosphere embodied by the album cover, and it is best to let one’s imagination roam as your mind fills itself with images produced by the music. If this description starts to sound like the influence of drugs on a person’s mind, that’s because it’s intended to come across like that. Only this time, the music itself is the drug. There are some bands that many believe can only be appreciated while high, but then there are bands that with the appropriate listening environment have the power to influence your mind in a similar way. If you are an anti-drug person, do not mistake this as a drug endorsement, it is instead a description of the effect of the music. For instance, during my concentrated listening experience (I have only listened to the entire song four times, and only one of those four times was I fully concentrating on the music) I was carried away to a different dimension by the massive power of the riffs, a sensation which I have not felt in that powerful of a way since. If given the proper attention and respect, a listening session of this album is indeed a powerful thing.

To me, “Dopesmoker” is more than just a song, it is an experience. One can review the track based on its stoner/doom qualities, but that is extremely limiting in my view. Most bands’ songs can be appreciated on simply a musical level, but this remains the only level on which they can be viewed. While many of these bands do stand out as exceptionally good, there is no other way to appreciate their music. Sure, the music itself may hit listeners on an emotional level for their own reasons, but they were originally composed to be only songs. But there are some bands whose music transcends the classification of simple “songs,” and enter the realm of being things to be experienced rather than just listened to. The music of bands like Swans and Godspeed You! Black Emperor (while in no way can they be compared to Sleep) embody this idea in its most profound form. In my opinion, Dopesmoker is one such recording. While its massive length may make it seem pretentious and inaccessible to many, it is simply the length necessary to present itself and what it embodies. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why Comparisons and Expectations Ruin Music, Part II

Earlier I wrote an article called, “Why Comparison and Expectations Ruin Music.” This is a part II to that article, because I realized that I had a few more things to say concerning that subject. In the previous article I stated how comparing a band to other similar bands can change your perspective on how you perceive what you’re listening to, and also how expecting that a band will sound like one thing will disappoint you when it sounds even slightly different. This article is a revisiting of that second point, as well as some new ones.
Often when a critic reviews an album, he will have a certain idea of what the feel and sound of the album will be, based on any previous work that group may have released. But sometimes if the new album that he is reviewing does not sound like anything that band has done before, the critic will give the album a negative review based on the lack of similarity, instead of the actual quality of the album. I have seen this done before many times. Often the change will not even be a good one, but this should be touched on as a fact instead of as a comparison to previous material. Sometimes bands will pull off slight changes in their sound that give it more variety while still maintaining their original sound, but other times the change will be so different as to almost sound like a totally different band. An example of this is the album “The Effects of 333” by the group Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC). Prior to this release, the band had been an indie/garage rock band, but “The Effects of 333,” was not even recognizable as a BRMC record. It was made up entirely of guitar effects and ambient noise, and was rejected by even some of the most hardcore fans of the group. Listening to the album, it is apparent that the band should have released the album as a side project, or under a different name. However, instead of comparing it to previous albums the group had released, it should be reviewed as it sounds. Granted, it is by no means a unique record when compared to other drone or post rock albums (a genre which “The Effects of 333” could possibly fit into), and is rather boring, but this is a better perspective to have on the album than as a BRMC release. Even if it itself is not a good album, it should be considered with a blank and accepting perspective to start with.

The opinions of the critics and reviewers themselves can also hurt one’s perspective of the music. If you read a review or description of the album, this will have an effect on you as a listener where you will expect certain things about the album, whether good or bad, that can often ruin what could have been an accepting reception of the music. But instead let the person did not form their own opinion. This is why I generally stay away from sites like Pitchfork and Sputnik Music, where every album I’ve ever loved is up for criticism from people who do not share my tastes, and have their own ideas about what the music should sound like. Too many times have I visited such a site and looked up a review for one of my favorite albums, only to find a reviewer criticizing faults I didn’t even realize the music had and thus forever scarring my perception of it. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Why Comparisons and Expectations Ruin Music

There is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt that reads, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This quote applies to everything, especially music. When listening to a newly discovered band, many people (including myself) often compare what they are hearing to another sound that they are familiar with. People like to find similarities that they are comfortable or familiar with, because it is just how the human mind works. However, when a song or group is compared to other bands, it constantly reminds the listener what they are “supposed to be listening to,” even if the similarity was not intended by the band and was only applied by the listener. It can definitely suck the joy out of listening to anything. This can apply to genre comparisons as well. Metalheads are known for subdividing everything into an absurdly extensive range of subgenres, and I, being a metalhead, tend to do this during initial listenings of a band. However, if the band does not exactly fall into the classifications I have set aside for it, I can get disappointed and think, “this doesn’t fit that genre.” This is all ridiculous, of course, because the band itself likely never set out to achieve that classification in the first place. An example of this was when I first discovered the band Fudge Tunnel. I initially classified them as grungy sludge metal, but after repeated listens, I began subconsciously comparing their sound with that of early Tool. Eventually, I began to wonder why this “prog-sludge” band didn’t sound more like what I thought they should sound like. But then I realized, that was MY classification. The band in no way meant to sound like whatever I had dubbed it to be, and I realized that my classification of the song had sullied my expectations of it. It is best to pay attention to what something actually sounds like, instead of trying to invent a new comparison in your head.

Another factor which could ruin a person’s interpretation of music is expectations. If a band or song is recommended, and the person tells you that it sounds exactly like Led Zeppelin, then until you hear the song, you will have built up in your mind an expectation for the song that can in no way be matched by reality. So when you actually hear it, you will of course be disappointed by the fact that whatever you are listening to does not sound like what you thought it would. So even if the song is perfectly good, you will be listening to it with a bad perspective, in a constant state of disappointment that it does not sound “exactly like Led Zeppelin.” Once again, it is best to try to appreciate music as you hear it and to not have any ideas in your head about what it should sound like. This can be difficult sometimes. For instance, if you are listening to music on Spotify, and you look through the list of recommended artists, anything you see you expect will sound somewhat like what they are allegedly “similar to.” If the recommended artist sounds nothing like what you are expecting, you may not like it even if it is a great band that you would normally like if you didn’t already have an expectation for it. 

When listening to music, it is usually best to keep expectations and comparison out of the mind, no matter how hard that may be sometimes.