Saturday, 11 February 2017

Rivette – In Vertigo (2016) / 85%



NWOFHM #10: Uno, dos, tres... catorce

I'm at a place called Vertigo! It’s everything I wish I didn’t know

This power trio from Finland plays an addictive form of heavy metal combining extraneous rock elements and it was one of my highlights of late 2016. I’m not totally sure this is an accurate portrayal but the first thought I had during my initial listening session was that Rivette was a heavy metal version of Dire Straits. This was perhaps due to the pop hooks combined with heavy guitar acrobatics but I still think this is a funny summary of their sound.

Their style of riffing is peculiar and it’s hard to compare them to contemporary metal bands since they don’t really fit within any scenes. Perhaps they could fit in the made up and weird as fuck New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal and that’s why Jussi Lehtisalo, owner of Ektro Records and creator of this scene signed them. Rivette are able to mix the uplifting feel of early NWOBHM (see the likes of Trespass) with a bunch of other influences like AOR, classic rock, 80s alternative rock and even 70s progressive rock. Esa (guitar, vocals) reminds me a lot of Peter Gabriel/Phish (I believe they’re the same person) and it’s super interesting to hear those sort of vocals in a heavy metal/hard rock setting. Listen to the final track of the record to hear this vocal approach, it's awesome.


While there’s certainly metal riffs in there, it doesn’t really feel metal most of the time. The EP has this smooth, lush feel and it’s quite impressive considering there’s no keyboards and it’s just three dudes trying their best to beat Rush at their own game (hint: nobody can.) The best quality the trio has is their ear for emotional and super catchy melodies. Just with the first minute of “Outrun the Night”, I was hooked and pleased. While their songs aren’t quite long (the longest is 6 minutes), they use some instrumental passages to their advantage and they do it well. They let the songs breathe and only “Arms of Lightning” is a straight up bulldozing rocker. Fun guitar leads, thick but pleasing bass licks and speedy drums is what you get with Rivette.

They’re at their best when they focus on their introspective side (like the title track) and go beyond heavy metal and I think their potential is tremendous. This is a rock solid debut extended play that I’ve been spinning a lot since early December and if you want originality in your traditional metal, they would certainly work for you.



Tuesday, 7 February 2017

The Snack Series - Kettle Brand Potato Chips / Honey Dijon





Price: The chips bags of Kettle are always less expensive than Miss Vickies' stuff so that's a good reason to check them out. I think it was $3.50 Canadian so like 10 cents for my American readers.

Packaging/extra information : Frankly, the bag was too hard to open, it's not quite cool when you're drunk or high and in need of a snack. The colour is bright though so it's easy to spot if you forgot where the light switches are. It's those sort of plastic-y bags that, I guess, can keep the chips fresh for a while.

Texture: Their chips are super crispy and cooked more naturally than most brands. They're the regular size of what you can expect from a normal chip and that's totally fine with me. Originality is overrated!

Taste: The taste is precise. The mix of the sugary and idiosyncratic feel of honey with the bitter and strong dijon mustard element brings a bold approach but not one that you get tired of after like ten chips (I ate the bag in one sitting, of course.) They're perhaps not as excellent as the aforementioned Vickies but they're a good alternative as they have a bunch of different flavors. I'll try the blue cheese one next time

All, in all, this is a decent choice while you watch the hockey game. The Habs still managed to lose though.
7.5/10


Friday, 3 February 2017

Haggatha – V (2017) / 87%


Death on the Fraser River


This quartet from Vancouver evolves in the depressive side of loud metal and they're excellent at making you feel uneasy in a totally enjoyable way. V, their third full length (but 5This quartet from Vancouver evolves in the depressive side of loud metal and they're excellent at making you feel uneasy in a totally enjoyable way. V, their third full length (but 5th release) hits all the right notes with its six numbers full of dread and hatred.

Haggatha is a band with an impressive songwriting who manages to fill their tracks with a wide array of super loud and roaring riffs. Unlike some sludge/doom bands that we can encounter in the scene right now, they don't waste any time and they deliver a relatively brief but rewarding album. A lack of edition and a tendency to fill the hardware (see Windhand and their seventy minutes records) are too common and it's refreshing to hear a band not interested in filling their material with filler. Their previous album had a long seventeen minutes track as its second side but V is more balanced with tracks between four and eight minutes. Let's just say that there's no disposable moments to be found here! I discovered the band with their new album but their formula was clearly established in the past and they're just working on the details to push their songs to the next level. What I can say, is despite not being an audiophile connoisseur, the mix and production of V is stronger and fits the sound of the band like a bloody glove.

Sure, Haggatha are not pushing the boundaries of sludge into unknown territories like Cult of Luna or Kylesa did but that's perfectly fine. Being original for the sake of getting a "best new music" review on Pitchfork is trying too hard anyway. They're instead going for an Eyehategod sound but rather than taking too much heroin, they prefer bong hits. This makes them slower and heavier! Outside of the riffs, their main distinctive characteristic would be the two vocalists, they both do harsh vocals but one prefers the high pitched ones and the other the deeper sort. The two approaches are adding a cool and versatile side to the band. Rest assured, there's no happy sides to Haggatha, it's all about being miserable and broken and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Bone chilling and tremendous riffy as fuck sludge/doom is what you're getting with Haggatha. It's a fitting start to 2017, it will not help you in these dire times but it certainly fits the new world atmosphere.
th release) hits all the right notes with its six numbers full of dread and misery.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder (2016) / 95%




Ted and Gylve are going camping again


Ever since their creation already three decades ago, Darkthrone has been mastering the metal arts. From death metal to icy black metal and hardcore punk fueled heavy/thrash, Ted and Gylve always did what they wanted and it’s never been anywhere near close to mediocrity. While we can go back to their classic trilogy for our black metal needs, I’ve been loving their recent material a lot and I often listen to their underrated and somewhat overlooked mid-era period (Hate Them in particular). The point of this introduction is to say that their whole discography is fucking immaculate and that’s a testament to both endurance and passion.

After my immediate love affairs with Circle the Wagons and The Underground Resistance, I was really expecting Arctic Thunder to be incredible. Unfortunately, I was a bit skeptical at first, it just wasn’t as good as I wanted to be. It seemed like a collection of good riffs without a cohesive feel or actual songs. I kept trying though as I knew the magic was there somewhere. The album was on constant rotation in December and January and turns out my understanding of it was waiting for me by the campfire. It was looking at the bright stars and the crisp flames wondering what I wasn’t grasping. With a judgmental look on its immaterial face, the record pierced my soul and I finally understood it. 

The main quality of Arctic Thunder is that it’s metal down to its core. It’s all about the riffs and it doesn’t hide anything under a false sense of gimmicks, an overcooked production or flashy but sterile musicianship. The album is like a strong imperial India pale ale, it contains a looooot of hops and it fills you up to the brink. The amount of riffs it has is almost criminal. I do think that some songs could had been longer but the tightness and the contained attitude is what makes this record so great. It’s epic by the strength of its riffs alone. The power of Nocturno’s guitar is enough to elevate the entire thing to another level. Perfect metal guitar tone.

Darkthrone doesn’t care about fluff or unnecessary elements, it’s riff after riff, thunderous drum beat after drum beat and bone shaking harsh vocals singing frosty anthems till you’re dead. 

BOREAL FIENNNNNDS

To talk about the sound of this record, we need to talk about their evolution since their watershed album The Cult Is Alive. They’ve been shedding their black metal skin since more than a decade while incorporating traditional metal elements (especially on their 2010 and 2013 records), punk, crust, D-beat or thrash metal. For this 2016 opus, it’s like if they decided to go back in time yet again but to an alternate dimension. One where black metal is still an essential part of their sound but where they wouldn’t have to leave their modern (read “ancient”) influences aside.

They took the sound developed on their previous five full lengths, mixed things up, pushed the black metal aura to the front and just went for the jugular. The album, rich with mid-paced riffs is apt at mixing thrashy black with some old school proto doom/death (Fenriz mentioned Dream Death himself and Satan knows he knows his shit) and it’s a lethal combination. Arctic Thunder brought back Darkthrone’s black metal from the dead but when you mess with necromancy, the corpse of your ancient friend can come back... changed. In this case, it came back as evil as before, hungry, angry and with a curious interest for hiking and camping.  

Nocturno handles almost all of the vocals on this record and it adds to the darker and murkier atmosphere they were going for. While I liked Fenriz’s silly but insanely great clean vox (listen to TUR’s “Valkyrie”), it wouldn’t had been a great fit here and like the old Norwegian wizards they are, they were wise enough not to include them here. Ted’s vocals are awesome (that’s not news for y’all, I hope) and he shines on the opener “Tundra Leech”. It made me want to sing the title while walking in the snowy roads of my city. 

TUNDRA LEEEEECH!

The quasi lo-fi production of Darkthrone has reached its peak here, I absolutely love the tone of the guitars and the drumming is both natural and loud without being overdone. The songwriting while highly condensed is all over the place and it’s due to the riffs variation. They can channel Iron Maiden (check out the intense title track), their buddies of Aura Noir, Celtic Frost or even Sabbath without breaking a sweat. There’s no much variation except for some slower tempos but it’s not needed. Darkthrone doesn’t do things for you, anyway. 

All in all, Darkthrone is still proving that they’re one of the best metal bands of all time by looking at the genre’s extensive repertory and making it their own. Making relevancy an unknown concept, the Norwegian duo aims for excellence and memorability and they succeed at both. Arctic Thunder is timeless, precious and essential metal

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Local Sounds: Volume 7.0






Happy new year everyone. I’m back with the seventh volume of Local Sounds, a series showcasing the best non-metal music being made in Montréal and Québec. I have three excellent releases to talk about today.




Les Indiens – Shaman UFO (2016)

The Quebec City quartet impressed the hell out of me when I’ve seen them in Montréal (with Grand Morne and Gerbia) back in 2014 but I pretty much forgot to check their latest album until the first month of 2017 appeared. On this lush full length, the dudes created a super cool form of rock with extensive metal influences. With nods towards Kyuss, Sleep and (obviously) Black Sabbath, Les Indiens unleashed a wide array of heavy riffs with enjoyable but buried vocals (their lyrics are all in French.) Furthermore, they have this spacey vibe as demonstrated by the Shaman UFO interludes and the use of psych elements right from Flower Travellin' Band's handbook. The production is also top notch and their sound is a natural mix of modern feedback and vintage roots. Massive, fun and interesting, this is an album worth checking out for fans of loud and smart rock music.

Bandcamp







Security – Arid Land (2016)

The debut extended play from this duo (two members from Dernier Sex) is faithful to its geographical origin. Like Montréal's winters, it's cold but mysterious, lifeless but highly active like an undead corpse. Composed of four numbers, the EP combines lush industrial with loud but subtle drum machines, coldwave, ambient, noise rock and drone and it's highly addictive and evocative. The warm clean vocals of Anna Arrobas are providing a peculiar contrast with the icy instruments, they’re in the background giving us hope that winter is almost over. It’s stripped down music to its core and the relationship between the guitar and the bass of Élie B. Faubert is one of balance and complementarity. I was expecting something great after heir fantastic performance with Rakta right before the summer and this didn't disappoint at all.

Bandcamp









Atsuko Chiba – The Memory Empire (2016)


The Montreal quintet is definitely one of the most interesting bands we have. Released during a gig with the excellent Milanku back in December, this three songs extended play explores the many facets of Atsuko Chiba’s identity. From the Rage Against the Machine inspired hip-hop vocal attacks to the psychedelic synths and funky metallic moments. Their palette of sounds is as extensive as the one of The Mars Volta and it’s truly difficult to pinpoint everything they do and create. They’re able to move the listeners with their drawn-out instrumental movements such as the opening of closer “Damonsta Titillates” and they don't even rely on repetitiveness or the generic crescendo formula used by most post-rock bands.. Borrowing elements from many scenes, the band is an outsider who’s doing what it truly wants. They’re shaking genre conventions with heavy guitars, thunderous bass licks and progressive explosions and I love it.

Bandcamp

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Magic Circle – Scream Live EP (2016) / 95%


Magical object from another era


The quintet from Boston is currently the best American metal band. Yes, yes, I know, this may seem a hyperbolic statement but their blend of high octane doom metal furled with heavy metal is just so damn contagious and mesmerizing. I had the opportunity to see them live twice so far and they’re even better than on record and that’s no small feat considering the quality of both the self titled (2013) and Journey Blind (2015.) This limited live tape (also available as a digital download) captures their stage energy quite well.

The EP was recorded live on a local Massachusetts radio so it’s not the exact same thing as a full blown live album with an audience but it’s simply a joy to listen to those guys play that it doesn’t really matter. Brendan Radigan is an absolute beast of a singer and he’s always stepping his game live. I think I prefer the tone of the vocals found on this tape than the ones of the studio albums, they’re a bit more upfront. Radigan is just an unhinged force of flawless manliness, he makes the entire band rise to an almost unmaintainable level of quality. His best performance is perhaps the title track of their newest full length album where he declares dark poetry with the conviction of an enlightened madman.

Ancient heroes from ancient wars.
In the arena the lions roar.
Fed to the fires they'll surely die.
Life to the wind. They journey blind.


The guitar duo of Ducas and Corry is so dynamic and busy that the strength of their abilities almost outshines the tremendous compositions they’re playing. The bass of DeTore (you can also hear his drumming skills on the Sumerlands’ debut album) is unfortunately not loud enough and that’s one of my only complaints about the sound of this recording. Their dense doom approach works very well in the live setting, their tracks full of twists and turns, slower and faster moments are just astounding.

Five tracks for thirty minutes is just enough to get you started for the day since their sound is so rich and complete. We get three songs from their sophomore, “Scream Evil” and “Rapture” from their magical debut, a good balance. Their albums aren't too long either and it's perfect since their music while captivating drains you of your energy as it's so emotional and powerful!

The band was apparently so happy with the results of this radio show and that’s why they decided to release it as a physical object. I can see (and hear!) why as it reflects the kind of guys they are. Magic Circle are a band without any frills, they’re like a beautiful woman who doesn’t need makeup to truly shine. Natural, honest, hard-working traditional metal is what they play and that’s what we get. Great live tape.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Quicksand Dream – Beheading Tyrants (2016) / 87%


Atmospheric sword and sorcery metal



The elusive Swedish duo surprisingly decided to release a second album after the underrated and cult-classic to be “Aelin – A Story About Destiny” released a good sixteen years ago. While the album is short based on our arbitrary full length standards (to hell with ‘em, I say), it doesn’t disappoint at all.

While 2016 offered us a bunch of excellent traditional albums such as the unhinged weirdness of Demon Bitch or the Phil Swanson heavy metal love affair of Sumerlands, Quicksand Dream has nothing to be ashamed of in terms of both quality and vision. With this new opus, we’re served six mid-paced epic songs culminating with the fantastic and highlight “To Kill Beneath the Sun”. The thirty minutes record  has an appreciable balance between fast and slow elements and a track like “The Shadow That Bleeds” demonstrates how well the band masters both the quiet, soothing moments as well as the riffy rockier ones.

Their blend of doomy epic metal is certainly something a bit more common than it was back in 2000. Bands like Atlantean Kodex, Sons of Crom or even Visigoth released strong, timeless metal while Quicksand Dream were slumbering in the shadows. Fortunately, it’s great to hear that they didn’t lose their edge. The riffs and huge bass lines of Patrick Berlund are catchy as hell, alternating between sorrowful, powerful and heavily evocative. His leads are also super interesting and captivating (check out the introduction of “White Flames on Black Water”. Göran Jacobson is still a tremendous force with the microphone but the production on his vocals is a bit underwhelming as it’s full of echoes. Despite this technical issue,  he still delivers a truck load of emotional heroic and manly bardic moments.

Their take on the genre could be qualified as an intelligent and atmospheric sword and sorcery epic heavy metal. It’s crushing but offers soft, gentle blows instead of a full blown barbaric attack and prefers relying on escapism than straight off beheading tyrants with a great axe. Quicksand Dream is both for those who like their metal full of powerful hymns and for those who also like to drink tea and read some Robert E. Howard. That’s a very particular niche occupied by the late The Gates of Slumber but also the epic doom pretenders to the throne Lord Vicar.