Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Body/Full of Hell - One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache (2016) / 87%


Two of today’s most belligerent forces of the underground got together to create this uneasy record. The young quartet from Maryland, Full of Hell, aren't afraid of experimenting and going all in when noise is concerned (see their collaboration with Merzbow) and Lee and Chip from The Body, two veterans of the "we'll do whatever the fuck we want" music academy, gave them the chance to go all in.

Throughout the ten songs, we're served abrasive and explosive music with a wide array of influences. Despite the numerous sounds of "One Day...", it's a coherent record with an overarching theme; nihilism... or a parody of nihilism. The Body are not to be taken too seriously most of the time and from what I've heard, their lyrical approach is based on some very dark humor.

The dirges found here are not letting go of your neck and heart for a bit more than forty minutes. The screeching vocals of Chip King (best name) and the deeper approach of Dylan Walker are perfect voices if you want to invoke total despair. The track "World Of Hope And No Pain" is a short summary of the vocal duality and it hits hard. The misery and pain found on those songs is personal but also universal, it speaks of suicide, depression but in a way devoid of emotional discharge and cheesiness. It's often more self-loathing than pure nihilism, in fact.

One of the highlights for me are the drums. At times, both a drum machine and a real drum are playing at the same time (such as on "Bottled Urn") and it creates an interesting dichotomy of styles and aggression. Sometimes it feels like The Body are using the technical skills of Full of Hell to provide an expansive yet super tight musicianship for their relatively simple but insane compositions. If it wasn't mad enough, the inclusion of short samples of neurotic TV extracts adds another dimension to the whole thing. The last track "Abel" ends with an extended one and it's just creepy. Its brother song "Cain" almost sounds like if Radiohead was actually dangerous instead of catering to boring college kids.

The ability of creating such a wall of sound with so many elements comes from their skill in using a multipurpose blender. From industrial sludge metal, slow powerviolence, striking grindcore to brooding ambient, harsh noise and even some martial black metal, the collaboration just unleashes its venom track after track. Sure, it's not quite accessible and some people would say it's not really "musical" but it's an overwhelmingly great album and it succeeds at all its goals. It's making you feel like shit but at the same time, you enjoy it.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Vapeur – l’Indifférence (2017)


Dans les vapeurs de vos cris?

Le projet montréalais Vapeur lance cette semaine sa deuxième galette et c’est certainement celle qui va révéler le quatuor rock à un plus large public par sa production sonore aboutie et sa foudroyante pochette armée de couleurs vives et psychédéliques. Après « L’effort » sorti en mai 2016, les garçons sont de retour avec «L'indifférence », un effort résolument plus ancré dans le punk et le groove. Tout comme les trucs fuckés sur la couverture, la qualité est au rendez-vous.

Les ambiances sont variées chez Vapeur. Il a presque autant d'ingrédients sonores que de choix de condiments pour tes hot dog vapeur d'après brosse. Nous pouvons passer du glam rock à tendances hard au rock garage incorporant aussi bien les influences de Malajube que des Américains de The Strokes (leur leader étant même honoré par le titre de la quatrième pièce :« Casablancasse-toi ») et au punk rock à ambiance feutrée.. Nous entendons également de profondes racines pop rock qui fait du EP un explosif mélange nourri de mélodies accrocheuses assumées. Malgré tout cela, le talent principal du groupe est de faire un rock francophone ayant comme acteur principal les guitares électriques. C’est quelque chose de rare dans le paysage rock québécois qui, ces temps-ci, nous sert des plats atmosphériques et planants (outre bien sur le son boosté de Galaxie) et c’est intensément rafraîchissant.

Les textes d’Andrew Duquette-Boyte évoquent des images pleines de folie nostalgique et sa livraison vocale délibérément fracassante convient parfaitement aux riffs de guitares acérés que Vapeur nous livre à la tonne. Ces jeunes hommes fringants nous prouvent que le rock en Français peut réellement fonctionner et frapper fort et j’en demande plus. Vaporise-moi.

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Un beau 8.5 hot dog vapeur sur 10

Friday, 24 March 2017

Cardinal Wyrm – Cast Away Souls (2016) / 80%

Twisted and original doom

The Bay Area trio’s third album reaffirms the band's status as an odd beast in the doom metal world. With this style of metal, it's often easy to pinpoint the influences of a particular band. It's usually Black Sabbath, Pentagram or Candlemass or a combination and mixtures of various slow to mid-paced ingredients. With Cardinal Wyrm, things are different and odd. While they're apparently keeping things in the traditional realm, their sound is original and transcends classification and borders.

As a pseudo doom specialist/connoisseur, I kept trying to find similar bands to them but to no avail. Like their fellow American doom bands of Yob or SubRosa, they managed to blend several elements, innovate and ultimately come up with a fresh and vivid sound. The nearest comparison I came up with is the striking might of Celtic Frost’s Monotheist/Triptykon with the atmospheric sadness of My Dying Bride. This might even be a stretch but it shows how far Cardinal Wyrm goes. It’s an otherworldly version of Gothic doom transformed by the will and the powerful force of an ancient one.

Compared to their previous album, Cast Away Souls is a bit shorter and this was a good decision as one hour albums are often too long regardless of their quality. The six extended tracks record is tight, varied and explore different moods throughout an apparent simplicity and ultra heavy riffs.

Pranjal Tiwari’s vocals are cleans but also quite idiosyncratic in a military kind of way. Since he’s also the drummer, there’s a necessary connection between the vocals and the percussion and it creates some weird rhythms adding to the peculiarity of the band. The addition of Leila Abdul-Rauf (Vastum, Hammers of Misfortune...) can be heard through some harsh vocals and cleans as well but the band principally evolves as a duo (Leila plays the bass live.) Despite this, the sound is full and doesn’t lack anything. The music is quite complex but that’s not something automatically noticeable. You need to look for the hidden details underneath the heavy, repetitive and intricate guitar playing of Nathan Verrill.

While it’s not always fully memorable, Cast Away Souls is a strong record full of twists and turns. Like Realmbuilder does for epic heavy metal, Cardinal Wyrm plays their doom in a vacuum. It’s like they brought their instruments to Mars and composed their songs with the distant memories of their influences. The obvious nods to outside forces were cast away (pun intended.) Svart Records has been releasing strong and progressive thinking material ever since their inception and this one is no exception. One of the most original doom bands around, this is refreshing to hear when there’s so many Electric Wizard copies around.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Quayde LaHüe - Quayde LaHüe (2016)

Randy Quayde LaHüe

Behind this peculiar band name hides a solid traditional metal/rock band with a strong sense of originality and a take no prisoners approach. The band is quite elusive on the omnipotent internets outside of their Bandcamp page but let it be known that they share three of their members with the excellent Christian Mistress also from the Pacific Northwest area.

The comparisons between the two bands being inevitable, I'll play the game. They're both fronted by women who have more in common the rough 80s days of heavy metal (see Acid or Détente) than anything with corsets released by Nuclear Blast or Century Media. The vox of Jenna Fitton have this natural way to charm you with how imperfect and cozy they are. She just rocks hard and it's truly fun to hear. It's just much more interesting than yet another diva who went to music school. They also evolve in the same nice but CM are more metallic. If you like the Christine Davis' band, you'll surely like this one as well. They like their music groovy, sad but hopeful and with a strong dark imagery.

The riffs of Diedrich and Wulf (not a German band, guys) are infectious and melodic in their lo-fi feel and their simplicity. They have good ears for hooks and catchy leads without turning the whole thing into a technical snooze fest. They worship Thin Lizzy and the rockier side of NWOBHM and you should too.

This twenty-five minutes release is also quite varied. Alternating from mid-paced quasi ballads ("Same Old Song") to melancholic riffier affairs like the opener "I Am Unworthy", Quayde LaHüe are keeping things slow, sad and loose. The production is tight though and it makes you feel like you're right there with the quintet in their rehearsal room. Sometimes modern heavy metal is a crunchier and heavier version of past oeuvres but this retains the same atmosphere as many bands from the formative days of the genre. Days where the line between rock and metal wasn't set in stone.

This first release is right there with Angel Sword, Legionnaire or Scalare as far as heavy metal is concerned. It's classic stuff with a distinctive and voluntarily amateurish sound that is miles ahead of their "well produced" peers catering to newcomers who just discovered Battle Beast. This is a super good EP, I can't wait to hear more stuff from this band.


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.

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. 


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. 


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.


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.


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.