Sunday, 23 March 2014

LIVE REVIEW: Dopethrone, Zaum, Greys & Mountain Dust @Turbo Haus, March 22nd 2014

Spring supposedly arrived one day prior to this gig but the weather in Montréal didn't seemed to notice as it was snowing and it was still pretty cold. It was my first time at this Turbo Haus venue and it was quite enjoyable even if I was on my own for the evening. This nice place is located near the Bell Centre, home of the Montréal Canadiens, the best hockey team ever. The location is kind of secretive, I knew the address but turns out the building is huge and has many rooms, mostly rehearsal spaces. I've encountered a dude who told me the door number for this haus. The gig was supposed to start at 20:00 but the promoters were waiting for the second band to show up so it started a bit late.

The venue was very nice, the white walls are all richly decorated with esoterical and weird black drawings and it has a small bar with cheap beer. The crowd was good, maybe 80/100 people .
Turbo Haus on Facebook

At around 21:00, Mountain Dust started their set, all dressed in checkered shirts, these English dudes from Montréal are playing a pleasing sort of stoner rock with vintage and blues influences. Heavy on the organ and lap slide guitar, their bass was also quite loud. The guitar wasn't as present as much hence their affiliation to rock instead of metal even though it's still heavier live than on their sole studio recording I've found. They had some vocals isues but the venue is to blame for that, the singer had a nice southern, garage approach fitting their sound. Pretty cool band, I'll be waiting for their debut full length. I think the slide guitar and keyboard approach of the band is refreshing, I rarely think it's a good thing for the keys to be the focus of the music but for Mountain Dust, it works.

Mountain Dust on Facebook
7,5 on 10

The second band were Greys from Toronto, never heard of them before and I didn't do any research before the gig since it's fun to have surprises sometimes. After a trek in the US including some gigs at the popular South by Southwest festival in Texas, they were back in their own country. The four guys all look like clean cut kids straight from a nice suburbia but their music isn't bad, it's simply not a band that fits on this bill. They play some sort of fast, heavy, noisy post hardcore with good hooks. Their vocals were underwhelming though, a mix of classic emo screams and punk rock, they were a bit weak. They were ok, I guess, it's not a genre I'm interested in besides At the Drive-In. They'll release their debut album this summer if you're interested in that kind of music. I think gigs with three bands are the best ones, they were the one that wasn't needed for this evening.

Greys on Facebook


I know someone linked to the Swedish label I Hate records and he really wanted me to see Zaum, a band from Moncton, New Brunswick that the label recently signed and report how good was their show before the band trek the European continent with Ocean Chief. Simply by looking at the two dudes, you know it's gonna be heavy as fuck. The bassist/singer Kyle McDonald would automatically be a dwarf if we were doing some LARPing, he has a thick body and the enormous beard to go with it. The drummer, Chris Lewis looks like a bald viking ready to destroy two or three Christian abbeys.

Their stage setup was quite extraordinary and considering it was only their third gig ever, they already know how to truly move the crowd. They had a smoke machine, some lights (mostly red) and at least ten candles with their nice logo printed on them placed everywhere on the stage. They played three songs (their upcoming album has 4) and their set was around forty minutes. It was very atmospheric with a dreamy ambiance. I liked how the drummer was facing the bassist/vocalist, there's no need for guitars, suckers! Their sound is some sort of doom/stoner deeply inspired by Om, that's cool since it's a band whose music is rarely influencing newcomers. Zaum is heavier than Al Cisneros' band though, their bass licks are dirtier and there's a mix of harsh and clean vocals. Very good band and the crowd liked the performance.

8,5 on 10
Zaum on Facebook

Dopethrone closed the evening with their nasty sort of doom/stoner metal. They played many songs from this album like "Devil's Dandruff". Their mix of sludgey Eyehategod influences plus Electric Wizard heavy doom riffs is enjoyable albeit a bit samey after around forty minutes. Vincent Houde is a cool frontman with dreads flowing around and a mighty talent for riffing and soloing. The chemistry with his two friends is also apparent, they deliver intense material and they're used to do it. Their songs about drugs (from weed to heroin) and guns are pretty dope! I missed the last few songs, maybe 1 or 2, no idea as I was  pretty sick and my cold mixed with beer made me a bit dizzy. I know I'm not a metal warrior, tell your moms.
I got their last album "III" for five bucks before their set, good price for sure, I was able to spend the rest of my 20 bucks bill on beer

8 on 10
Dopethrone on Facebook

A great evening with cool bands for dirt cheap is what we got here, that's what metal and rock is all about. Finding cool, unknown places to see bands while people are too busy talking how bad the weather is.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Electric Mud Generator - To the Disdain of Polyhymnia (2008) / 95%

The Union Jack Prog/Psych Metal pt. V: Eloquence

Tony's notes: Polyhymnia was the muse of poetry, eloquence, dance and agriculture in Greek Mythology. Now, I don't know what this band did to deserve her disdain but I'm pretty sure it's undeserved as this album is truly magniloquent and refined in its heaviness.

Electric Mud Generator can be considered as the band before A Forest of Stars, as the three members of this British project evolved towards that psychedelic multi-member troop. Instead of the weird circus atmospheric black metal sound of their younger brother, EMG plays a very interesting kind of progressive music intertwined with stoner and doom elements.

The songs are very long, approximately fifteen minutes each for more than seventy minutes of music and there's nothing wasted since I think that everything on the record has its purpose and we can't say that often for long albums. The structure of the album reminds me of Opeth's classic record Morningrise with its full-fledged sinuous epics. The quality of the compositions, the appropriation of the lengthy songs to their advantage and the use of acoustic guitars and keys can also be compared to the Swedish giants. Considering Åkerfeldt's baby is perhaps my favourite band, consider me flabbergasted by the degree of excellence demonstrated by the Englishmen on this record.

The vocals of Duncan Evans can recall the soothing side of modern Anathema, but make no mistake, this is still pretty damn metal. I think there's also a slight hint of grunge here, or at least a drop of Alice in Chains. It's weird since it reminds me of Jerry Cantrell's two latest albums both released after Polyhymnia, but eh, the metal world is magic! Maybe it's only the vocal sensibilities mixed with the hard hittin' riffing since there's nothing intrinsically progressive found in grunge.

Electric Mud Generator are undeniably English in essence, even though the influences are really not easy to pinpoint. Nonetheless, you can feel the classic side of the British sound. The progressive side seems to be minimally influenced by bands like Gentle Giant or even the 70s glory days of Rush. They're certainly all over the place musically and that's a joy to hear since it's sharply cohesive. That's perhaps the biggest strength showcased by the trio. It's hard to really classify them, there's no real links to the stoner genre apart from the groovy guitars found here and there. The line between doom and stoner here is pretty thin but you can hear the influence of Solstice (UK of course) in the epic fabric of their identity, there's a similarity in the dichotomy found in the mix of epic, clean vocals and the acoustic parts with the doom metal riffs not unlike in Rich Walker's songwriting. It's not so much an influence on the sound of EMG but rather in the structural identification. The solos such as the ones in the fabulous opening track “Galatea” are refined and can be linked to heavy metal and even, to a lesser degree, the hey days of 90s English doom/death.

The riffs can be melodic such as the groovy six minute track “She Wore Thorns”, but most of the guitar parts are emotional and driven by long instrumental sections that really go somewhere, often supported by psychedelic keys. I know some people will think they have no direction whatsoever but to hell with them! They couldn't sit through the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings movies either. This is grandiose music and the scope is ambitious but it works due to the songwriting skills of the composers.

Evans (vocals, guitars) always had an interest in the softer side of music, he even released a good dark folk album in 2013 and while this release is rooted in metal riffs consolidated with progressive/psychedelic rock, you can still feel the folk side underneath all these tasty rock shattering riffs. The twenty-two minute masterpiece that is “Five Elegies” starts with this calm introduction including some enchanting female vocals and during its lengthy journey, it explores so many musical aspects that it's hard to find the way after only one spin. Helped by the rich, deep instrumentation composed of acoustic guitars, keyboards and other unorthodox elements usually not part of metal bands, this song is a good embodiment of the album has a whole since it has all the elements of their sound. Rest assured, this is nowhere near a cheese fest and it's much more interesting and actually has a solid intellectual background opposed to many bands adding acoustic elements to their sound without really knowing why and how.

I'll not underestimate the influence of the two other members of this band. Both Jon Cumiskey (bass) and Richard Blakelock (drums) are in The Water Witch, a band also composed of members of A Forest of Stars, evolving in the progressive black/folk spectrum. I think the combination of musical vision really helped this band to achieve this original and memorable sound. The amount of subtle complexity this record has is just too much for three guys that aren't Lee, Lifeson and Peart to handle! I'm sure they're fine live but with obvious tweaks to their compositions and what do I know, it's possible to play both guitar and piano if you have really flexible feet.

It's quite rare to hear such poetic distinction in metal and it has to be regarded as an important feat. Their lyrics are smart and the overall artistic approach of the band is pure class. Of course, if you value simplicity, speedy riffs and a simpleton approach to metal, you're simply reading the wrong review and I have no idea why you're still here.

To the Disdain of Polyhymnia is one of the best progressive metal of its decade. Sadly it's been overlooked by the formation of A Forest of Stars, a band I'm not terribly fond of. The three members have been concentrating their efforts on other projects but I know they were planning to do another Electric Mud Generator release. I hope it's not too late! It's always a bit sad (and selfish admittedly) to dislike the direction taken by musicians that you admire but I do feel this way about them. I'm just gonna tell myself that everything they had to say about this particular style (with many roots and branches) has been said and that they couldn't top this album. Ah! I feel better already!
Mixing stoner/doom metal with folk, symphonic, progressive & psychedelic rock has never been this successful even though it's not a genre that has been tried much. EMG were able to craft a release rooted in modernity but at the same time it's coming to terms with the past in a slight yet reassuring embrace.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Landskap - I (2014) / 67%

The Union Jack Prog Metal pt. IV: Manscaping

Landskap (Swedish for landscape but no need to be a genius linguist to figure that out) is a new band from London, England formed by many veterans of the scene. The members are coming from established bands like Fen, Indesinence, Centurions Ghost or the excellent Pantheist. Their first album simply titled “I” is a decent slab of doom metal mixed with a big dose of psychedelic rock.

The involvement of Kostas Panagiotou (Pantheist) is pretty important to the sound of this band. His organ/keyboard parts are lush and give a good support to the heavy, slow guitars. The album, composed of only 4 tracks, including a long instrumental one at the end, is a bit on the short side , it kinda feels like an EP. Instead of releasing new stuff, Iron Bonehead will re-release this album in May. With only about thirty minutes, Landskap managed to release something decent though. Their dual guitar attack (Frederic Caure of Serpentcult, who's also playing the bass here) and a newcomer named George Pan (maybe he's a satyr!) is pretty cool and the leads are well composed. The bass playing is thick and the feedback can recall the stoner side of doom. The songs are pretty slow and thick, it's pretty busy doom with many nuances but it's nothing to call your mom about.

The fact is, this project not unlike Avatarium, feels insincere in its process. Their sound, despite being pleasant, is the trendiest the doom world is experiencing right now and we see many musicians jumping to vintage doom with keys like it's the new way to become U2's opening act. I have nothing against mixing keys with heavy doom riffs and the way they did it isn't bad, really, but it just rubs me the wrong way. What we have here is a bunch of guys telling themselves they could do an album of this particular doom tendency and maybe get to play with Blood Ceremony. I don't know, man, it just seems shallow. Compared to the other projects of these dudes, this is simply not original and it's derivative.

This is a not good reason to trash a band though, musicians are always following trends, that's just the way it is. The true reason is that their songwriting is just boring and mundane. The last instrumental song is a bore and it was hard to finish it. Jake Harding is actually a good, if not a bit generic, vocalist and getting rid of him for like a third of the album is just a bad decision since he's one of the strongest parts of the band alongside the bluesy guitar solos. The production is pretty good, quite atmospheric and rich but that's to be expected from Greg Chandler (Esoteric).

The album is free on Bandcamp so take a chance with it because it's still a good time, just not something I'll go back to. Nonetheless, the fact remains that Landskap are pretty good musicians. The three minutes interlude “My Cabin in the Woods” is soft and enjoyable, but sadly it's not about the Joss Whedon movie. I'll listen to Pantheist if I want really good doom with keys.


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Golgotha - Unmaker of Worlds (1990) / 83%

The Union Jack Prog/Psych Metal pt. III: Death Star

Tony's notes: The album art was created by Duncan Storr who did most of Skyclad's discography and the classic album Crimson of Edge of Sanity. 

Golgotha is one of the few NWOBHM bands who lived to see the 90s, this doesn't made them a successful band though!. With their full lenght albums released early during the decade, the band explored pretty weird lands. Almost void of anything metal, Unmaker of Worlds seems to go in no direction whatsoever but feels pretty cohesive for some reasons I can't really explain. It's like a painting using so many different colours that doesn't seem to fit together but because of some unfathomable talent, it works and it has this determined aura that tried to prove that “hey, I did it! I managed to mix that and it doesn't suck! Ha!”

Six years after the
Dangerous Games EP, it's not the same band we can find here. It's not folky and changed its influence from Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant heavy rockin' groove NWOBHM metal to something more subdued. Golgotha became a solo project of Karl Foster after the 1980s and I don't know what he did during this long hiatus but it was probably pretty interesting, I'm sure of something though, he was really into the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis (their best era by the way and if you don't agree, you might as well agree that your musical taste sucks). The style featured here is hard to pinpoint, it has this healthy dose of synths without being too cheesy and it has this awesome classical influence without trying too hard. The four songs are long and intricate and gives the opportunity to the musician, he's on his own here and that's before the one man band trend found in metal, to really shine. The songs are eleven minutes on average and they don't feel like they're that long.

There's also a big AOR/classic rock influence here, especially on the vocals. If you hate the rock found in the 80s, stay away from that band. Foster also finds the time to join the neo prog movement, indeed Golgotha is not quite dissimilar to the rocking side of Marilion's early career. It's basically a weirder and out there Genesis mixed with some experimental touches and even more theatricality such as the ending of the title track. It's pretty hard to pinpoint the band but if you always felt like Steve Hackett's guitar playing wasn't heavy enough, well now here's your chance! The keyboard and the organ are still the main aspect of their sound and it's supported by heavy rock guitars and an efficient drum machine.

The album, has I said, shouldn't quite work on paper but its diversity is impressive and the songwriting is incredible. It's underrated status probably comes from its release date, 1990 wasn't a big time for either progressive rock nor metal but this album needs to be heard as it's a work of beauty. Unmaker of Worlds ends with a fabulous ballad with awesome high clean vocals and pure emotional weight. Well done symphonic progressive rock with a metal oomph from time to time.