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Another busy week in the neighborhood, we’ve prepped up for yet another Weird Scenes episode to be recorded this weekend and spent a few days on reviews here besides…and that’s on top of everything else life brings and demands along the way.

So here’s another one where we’re cutting it off at about 2/3 of the original intended coverage, to get another batch of reviews out for everyone’s delectation.

Not as many strong offerings in this group, but you’ll find the gems scattered willy nilly among the weeds, as it were.

Happy Friday, everyone!

 

Silence In The Snow – Levitation Chamber (Prophecy) (July 26)

Here’s something a bit harder to describe than usual. Picture the more sparse, nearly acapella moments of vintage Siouxsie and the Banshees, but with spastic, overly busy (almost to the point of Atari Teenage Riot nonsensical at points, towards which they lean in “smoke signals”) drums.

Then bury the vocals in a ton of reverb that puts things like early Cult, All About Eve or Cocteau Twins to shame. Now give the vocals a weirdly sharp, idosyncratic twinge, sort of like Johnette Napolitano crossed with Danielle Dax by way of Anja Huwe of X-Mal Deutschland…and you may have something approximating the sorta gothicized existentially sparse dark Americana of Silence in the Snow.

Because yeah, they’re also playing in the general ballpark of acts like Mazzy Star, Chris Isaak, Sono Morti and Murder Ballads-era Nick Cave, to boot…

I don’t know. It wasn’t bad, but those comparisons still don’t feel right, as they make this sound a lot better than it actually proves to be. It’s listenable, dark and moody as hell…but something’s missing, something vital.

There’s no real excitement to it, no raison d’etre, no vim and vigor and celebration (or fear) of inner darkness underlying. It’s just…depressed.

As such, all I can tell you is this is certainly listenable enough, and you could certainly waste your hard earned cash on much less deserving releases this month…

…but that said, I’d hardly call this something to stop the car and go out of your way to grab a copy of, by any standard.

The drummer needs to stop spazzing out with the faux-prog and start dropping some of the same valium the singer’s clearly megadosing.

 

Thief – Map Of Lost Keys (Prophecy) (July 26)

Remember The Botanist? Weird experimental post-black metal act that does everything on dulcimer instead of guitar and comes with a weird ass pro-Green postapocalyptic backstory?

We’d covered their split with Oskorein and Collective: Shape of He to Come and found them oddly interesting, an interestingly conceptual curiosity worth a listen at the very least.

Here they go full on Doom Generation soundtrack late 90’s shoegaze/gothic-industrial, complete with droning electronic fuzz tones and drum machine, sampled, druggy female vocals and media soundbytes and male vox that sound like the guy just dropped enough drugs to floor Keith Moon in his heyday before stepping up to the mic.

It’s vintage feeling, alright…but why is this rather peculiar and timelocked style trying to come back after all this time?

The claim here is that this Botanist alum discovered “sacred music” like Gregorian chant…but this hardly Enigma we’re talking. In fact, he seems to be sampling Hindi devotionals and tapping into Arabic hymns to Mecca more than any Western religious influence of any sort, or from any long lost era. So in that respect, yeah, let’s call bullshit.

Bottom line, it’s like listening to Curve, Catherine Wheel and the Wolfgang Press at their most drugged out all over again…with some Middle Eastern female vocal ululations sampled throughout, and nothing more than that.

If that sort of retro-late night 90’s clubbing thing appeals to you, don’t hesitate. Just don’t believe any further hype, because that’s all you’re really gonna get out of this one.

DECENT NEWS – “BLACK BOX / KROKODIL” (MACHINE MAN RECORDS) (August 30)

Well, here’s one of those “name your price” singles, so it’s an easy given for anyone who thinks this sounds interesting – can’t beat a free lunch, so to speak.

It’s industrial, but something’s a bit off about it.

I used to enjoy stuff like Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, BiGod 20 and of course Thrill Kill Kult (whose earlier iterations on albums like I See Good Spirits… were very much industrial dance as opposed to the slightly more ‘mainstreamed’ style they would later shift to for their other career high point, 13 Above the Night). Hell, even stuff like Meat Beat Manifesto and Skinny Puppy had definite moments.

But this? I’m hearing more of a near-metal approach, like Pissing Razors or something crossed with Ministry, or NiN with losers like Slipknot or Twiztid doing vocals. It’s processed guitar and drum machine with processed spat/snarled vox, alright…but it doesn’t feel “industrial” in any sense I ever respected.

Even Marilyn Manson had “sweet dreams” and Antichrist Superstar to save his otherwise laughable name. What I’m hearing here doesn’t even come close to that, and that’s kind of sad.

SULGOGAR – CANNIBAL-TOON (MACHINE MAN RECORDS) (JUNE 28)

What would you get if you took a good, crunchy death metal guitar full of artificial harmonic wah pedal set midway tones, then wasted it on grindcore?

Now what if you took the grindcore and gave it sub-DD Crazy POUND POUND POUND sub-blastbeat drumming, and Waxen meets Satanic Warmaster-style through a telephone-style annoying vocals?

Seriously, I had to shut this one off halfway through, I was developing a headache while writing this.

I don’t have to tell you where this one’s getting tossed, do I?

NEXT?!?

CRUEL – MECANICA ORGANICA (MACHINE MAN RECORDS)

umm…I guess this is a tongue in cheek act, given that the leadoff track translates to “I love drug addicts”?

Yeah, there’s songs about “perversion street”, “dominatrix(es)”, various aspects of witchcraft’s goddess…delivered in hardcore punk-style shouts and accompanied by crunchy death metal guitar and annoying Speak N’ Spell-level electronic overlay effects.

Gee, think this is the Chilean GWAR?

oy, what a batch of releases this has been thus far…

WHIZZ!!

Yeah, yeah, just flick the embers off and stop, drop and roll.

This really has to get better.

(sigh)

…next?

Thank You Scientist – Terraformer (Evil Ink) (June 21)

Weird ass djent sort of thing. You know the type, where the guitarist is too busy making annoying atonal squeaks and attempting to chase down the elusive “microtone” while delivering a sub-Steve Vai by way of Herman Li kind of thing?

Audiences these days seem to praise this approach. I guess deafness set in early for a generation or something…

So yeah, if you’re really into Vai’s use every effects board processor known to man while making weird atonal noises…but then just pulling back to tonality long enough for a chorus or to end a phrase? You know that shit he used to pull with Alcatrazz a bit, toned down somewhat for the first DLR album but tried to reintroduce somewhat on Skyscraper…then went whole hog on in his solo career? Yeah.

Frontman Salvatore Marrano will definitely weird you out with his extremely feminine tones – I thought they had a frontwoman for a bit, so high and thin and vaguely lisping is the man’s delivery. I mean, look, prog’s always had guys like Jon Anderson at the helm, but it surprised yours truly, so be warned.  As Austin Powers once said, “it’s a MAN, baby!”

There’s a vague sense of Zappa-ness to phrases scattered all across the album’s running time, with at least one entire track dedicated to that sound (album standout “wrinkle”…which even includes a bit of violin and horn accompaniment, though we’re hardly talking “Sugarcane” Harris, here, much less Jean Luc Ponty), and this certainly appeals…

But stuff like the title cut…yeah, more than a step too far outside harmony and melody for my tastes, let’s say that.

It’s only on something like “FXMLDR” or even “everday ghosts” that they manage to pull things together better, with hints of Zappa and the spastic, FX and weird atonal noise Vai wannabe guitar married to a more melodic if decidedly modern sounding song structure.

And to be fair, if you dig deep enough, you’ll start to pick out more tracks, or portions of tracks, that also fall in ever expanding ellipses out of that general orbit…so with repeated exposure, this album may even make a bizarre sort of sense, at least to ears well accustomed to “outsider” music like Zappa and The Residents.

But while I’m sure the guy has skills in the sense that we can say Allan Holdsworth does, even after leaving Tony Williams’ Lifetime (the last time he ever played anything of note or that I’d ever want to hear again)…it’s in the same sense that we can say Allan Holdsworth, post-Lifetime, has skills.

You probably wouldn’t want to slog through all the aimlessly atonal wheedly-whoo and non-harmonic note cluster nonsense to give him any appreciation…but you can’t say the man can’t play the instrument.

At least Thank You Scientist has moments of traditional song structure and melody (and at least one full track that hearkens back to Zappa fairly directly) to their credit.

More than I can say for Holdsworth.

FACE WITHOUT FEAR – Deliverance (June 7)

Okay, so the non-Slipknot half of the Murderdolls (if that means anything to you beyond one of those names emblazoned across shirts at your local Hot Topic) drops a new industrialized to nu-metal single.

Apparently it’s based on Ayn Rand. Yay. Objectivism worked so well in the political career of the detestable Paul Ryan, right?

Hey, I love Steve Ditko, especially when he left Marvel and started getting increasingly weird and didactic (culminating in the hilarious pretzel logic self justifications of the crazed right wing lodestone Mr. A)…but come off it, already. The world is not black and white, there are zero absolutes, just orbits of potentiality and possibility. Read up on some quantum physics, and grow up – let’s leave it at that.

Nothing much to say about this one, it’s very much of the same order as the earlier mentioned Decent News, with a touch more Ministry influence perhaps.

yawn, stretch, next?

Children of the Sun – Flowers (The Sign Records) (July 26)

Thickly accented Swedish retro-“classic rock” act.

Frontwoman Josefina Berglund Ekholm comes off like a cross between Unsun’s Aya Stefanowicz and Magica’s Ana Mladinovici in terms of the heavy and obviously accented English, though her vox are more midrange and pop/rock in feel than comparisons to either of those gothic/power/symphonic acts would otherwise suggest.

While they’re pretty laid back and accompanied by vintage sounding organ undertones throughout, they don’t really “get it right” in that while their approach does pay general homage to the early to mid 70’s laid back post-hippie rock sound, it’s never “retro” enough to actually fool fans of vintage acts or their work of the period.

Consider these folks more like a Swedish bar band covering all your favorites from acts like Bad Company (or oddly enough, on “hard workin’ man”, Bonnie Raitt!), and you may appreciate them a hell of a lot more than if you walk in expecting Steppenwolf or Grand Funk or something along those lines.

Sammal or Imperial State Electric, they ain’t.

Ragdoll Sunday – Puritan (June 21)

Okay, one major question right up front. How the hell is this “punk” in any sense of the word?

That’s right, these Brits label themselves as “progressive punk”, whatever the hell that means…um, let me clue you in, fellas. Punk was a reaction to the pretentiousness of 70’s “classic rock” and prog rock in particular, where you had to have a damn music degree to play it and audiences were relegated to the back of a huge ass stadium rather than part and parcel of the show (and with many of ’em starting their own damn bands, with all the DIY esprit du corps of it).

It was all about bringing rock back to the basics, hence the “simple” feel and all the retro 50’s feel of folks like Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers or the Cramps, or the dumbo 3 chord business of The Ramones. So to say you’re both “punk” and “progressive” says just how clueless everyone’s become over the years, akin to saying “hey, I’m a Christian Satanist!” or “I’m Yiddish Alt-Right!”

Oil and water, kids. Oil and water.

So anyway…”marching lines” sounds sorta Hades by way of Non-Fiction, particularly with the Alan Tecchio-esque high pitched vocal squeals that close the song out.

Songs like “say goodbye” sound very 90’s, with a sort of Type O Negative meets…jeez, what the hell are they shooting for here? Modern thrash metal?

Yeah, that’s what I’d call “never be the same”, while the dual vocals (with one of ’em sputtering gibberish and breaking into frantic screams along the way ala Korn) simply bellow “nu metal”. You get the idea.

Not much here says “prog”…even less says “punk”.

At least the frontman wisely intones, “most of what I see around me today is fake.”

mmm-hmm. Totally agreed.

Just extend that to “hear” as well.

Infrared – Back To The Warehouse (June 14)

We’d covered these Ottawa thrashers for both of their reunion albums (which were the only things they ever actually released, bar a demo back in ’88), No Peace and Saviours, and here they appear to be “releasing the last of their classic material”. Now, my take is that this is actually modern day recordings of songs they probably wrote and played (as in live or rehearsals only) back in the day…and production aside, it sure as hell sounds it this time around!

Seriously, looking back at earlier reviews, while both had definite positive points to ’em…yeah, it was not what I’m hearing here.

This is Xentrix crossed with D.A.M. Period. There’s a bit of an early Chuck Billy end of phrase twang to frontman Armin Kamal’s vocals, and the guitar tone is both fat and crunchy, while bearing that telltale artificial harmonic-ready feel and punchy Massacre Second Coming by way of Suffocation-style audible bass so endemic to vintage thrash, particularly of the Bay Area school and its closely related adherents in the UK to which this sounds most akin.

Did I mention I really liked this?

Because I really, really liked this, lousy cover of Di’Anno Maiden’s “wrathchild” and that silly fake fart that opens “meet my standards” aside.

If they can craft songs that bear this general feel and sensibility (not to mention tonal colour!) next album?

Yeah. I’m eager to hear the next release from these guys, in the hopes that it’ll come off half so good as this one does.

Absolutely killer, deserves a spot on the shelf next to all the classics of the genre, no questions asked.

Seraph In Travail – Lest They Feed Upon Your Soul (July 12)

Sort of like Cradle of Filth without a hint of gothic Decadence, sardonic female vocals* or the high pitched shrieks Dani was always prone to breaking into, this is “symphonic death metal” from, of all places, Philly.

* well, there are straightforward ones in the middle of “temptress suicide”, but it’s hardly Sarah Jezebel Deva-level satanic snark they’re dropping.

High speed, relentless blastbeat and double bass drumming, weirdly melodic but overly busy lead lines and tremelo riffing, death belch vocals and keyboard overlays…yeah, aside from the aforementioned, this one just screams Cradle fanboys, right down to the vaguely poetic song titles like “words strewn like wreckage”, “a fragrant corpse carriaged” and “in frostbitten moonlight”.

As an unabashed aficionado of that oft beleaguered act’s early material from way back, I certainly could appreciate the attempt to recreate something their obvious model appears to have lost over the years (hell, even before the move to Sony, how many years ago was that?

It’s just too bad they aren’t as erudite or believably Decadent, which leaves them at best a promising shadow of what once was and already exists to appreciate time and time again.

CAZADOR – Failure to Thrive (July 12)

Weird, atonally inclined, droning “experimental” sludge act out of Boston.

Now, I was never the biggest fan of Boston hardcore or ska – too much aggro there. Always felt a bit “off” from the other big scenes like NYC, L.A. or D.C., a bit too middle class bored kids out to start shit and not enough music or message to back it up.

But this…I don’t know. I’d rather sit through the worst excesses of the Boston scene than to hear it devolve into…whatever this is.

The “riffs” come off like everyone was nodding off after shooting up. They’re obviously falling asleep while noodling…and some dope recorded it. Oh, and occasionally, someone screams over the top, often in tried and true Bostonian hardcore style.

umm…Flipper meets SSD, but without any of the listenability, energy or niche interest?

Yeah, you know what that means.

Nobody wins.

…next?

Wizard Rifle – S/T (Svart Records) (August 30)

An inverted Slayer riff kicks off “V”, before the song degenerates into some weird cross between 90’s grunge and the aimless, oft atonally inclined experimentation of more modern acts on the fringe.

To call this “indie” gives the wrong impression – there’s nothing retro-120 Minutes about these guys.

“Rocket to hell” shows a duo who can’t decide whether they want to be Pere Ubu Mark II, Samhain or Soundgarden…and while any one of the three roads hinted at therein could have been a viable option, the mix of the three merely results in a failed batter, fit only for tossing out and starting over from scratch.

“Caveman waltz” is half Kyuss and half The Cars, before turning more pointedly “metal”…but with oddball high pitched sludge style vocals. It may contain the single most successful riff on the record, and thus is the one track you should give a listen to before dismissing them out of hand…just don’t expect miracles, much less any degree of normality here.

I think “funeral of the sun” is trying to work more of a doom trope, but with the weirdly inappropriate vocals and some riff phrases, it never quite gels.

I don’t know. This album is just bizarre, with elements that should work, but their insistence on syncretizing and alchemizing things that were never meant to work together just keeps resulting in failure after failure, “caveman waltz” being their indisputable best foot forward among a much larger bad batch.

(shakes head)

(waves hand dismissively)

…whatever. Next?

The Electric Mud – Burn the Ships (August 23)

Straight up “classic rock” in the sense of blues-driven, gritty vocalled bar band at large.

Nothing wrong with it, if you’re into stuff like Marshall Tucker, The Outlaws or even Bonnie Raitt…but pretty workaday and very much the sort of “dad rock” you might hear some Midwestern WWE wrestlers marching out to the ring with, or providing musical cues to shows like Walker, Texas Ranger or Renegade.

Acceptable to be sure, but you’ve heard this about 10 million times before. Absolutely zero surprises to be found here.

Vokonis – Grasping Time (The Sign Records) (September 6)

Okay, it’s not as absurd as “progressive punk”, but this is (wait for it) a “prog sludge band”.

(long pause for effect, sardonic face for laughs)

Not kidding you. “Progressive SLUDGE.”

So what you get is sludge with the usual 90’s grungelike affectations (the entire mainstream of the subgenre seems to derive from some weird cross between Alice in Chains, Conan and the likes of Red Fang, after all) which occasionally slows down and goes clean guitar mellow, with syncopated drum patterns.

…well, you know I’m OK with the latter end…but just…why?

Less a case of “I hated this” than one of “what the hell were they thinking?”

Two great* tastes that don’t necessarily taste great together.

* well…OK, one, and one very iffy one…but still. You get the idea.

Listenable but bizarre in both concept and execution.

Pacifist – Greyscale Dreams (June 16)

Quirky Indian act out of Mumbai that seems to be working some odd cross between modern day indie and the pissed off at a sick world vituperativeness of Rage Against the Machine or even (at a bit of a stretch) System of a Down.

Frontman Sidharth Raveendran comes off like a less strident Zac de la Rocha, while the band veers between a likeably contrasting laid back indie approach (as on the title cut), an almost alterna-punk feel (“double down” feels a bit like a screwed up version of “no sleep till Brooklyn” at points…) And they did mention Helmet in the promo materials – you can pick out a bit of that influence in here as well.

It’s still too weirdly experimental for my tastes…but the title cut worked, so the other three, far lesser tracks get to ride its coattails for at least a passing grade.

Dialith – Extinction Six (August 16)

Interesting, if a tad off kilter vocals from a Krista Sion enliven this otherwise fairly straightforward gothic/Euro power metal release out of Connecticut.

Somewhat akin with domestic attempts at recapturing the Euro metal sound (Seven Kingdoms, Helion Prime before they lost Heather Smith, Echoes of Eternity, etc.), the band is a bit too aggressive and Americanized to really fit in with ostensibly similar acts like Burning Point, early Battle Beast or even the recent Chaos Magic.

Even so, choruses lose the overaggressive nigh-death metal riffing and drive and go full on sweet and melodic, allowing Sion a proper stage to deliver vocals that feel more akin to the likes of Liv Kristine’s stints in various bands, those of Melissa Ferlaak or either of the Elis frontwomen…and it’s those sections and moments that elevate Dialith above the workaday verse sections to something stronger.

Even so, to say Extinction Six is reasonably close kin to Helion Prime’s excellent self titled or Decennium is far from a slag.

In fact, it’s a pretty strong compliment.

Atomic Kavemen – Everyone Loves A Dead Man (August 2)

What would you get if Marquis Thomas of the Vladimirs was a whole hell of a lot less faithful and almost comically satirist with his Glenn Danzig impression, even going so far as to go very obviously flat on record more than a few times along the way?

We covered their self titled debut earlier this year and figured they must have been a joke cover band/mockery of Danzig (somewhat akin to Gloryhammer or Cannabis Corpse in that respect)…but apparently they may actually be in earnest here.

So…ok. Let’s try to take ’em on that level, then.

Well, it’s listenable to be sure, with a basic rock leaning towards metal vibe, but with somewhat “horror punk” inclined lyrics. You know, sort of like the first 3 or 4 Danzig albums…just with a much weirder, more awkward sounding Glenn fronting ’em.

Look, no bullshit, I love that first Danzig album, and enjoy ’em right through 4…and was a big fan of both the Misfits and Samhain before ’em. So to say someone sounds sort of like that, that’s a definite positive.

It’s just the fact that you can’t really be sure the frontman is being entirely serious about his piss takes on Glenn’s vox that leave most of us standing back, eyebrow cocked, arms folded, wondering just what the hell he’s up to here…

…or if it’s just a dedidedly art naif homage to the man’s better days.