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Go together like gypsies, tramps and thieves, or so some skewed alternate universe version of Cher would have it.  I dunno, it was the 70’s.  What do you want from me, how old d’you think I am, here?  Sheesh…

So anyway, yeah, here’s another batch of reviews to tide you over as we try to get back in a bit of a swing during these last few weeks of the holidaze.  Who knows how much we’ll squeeze in (or not), but no more Weird Scenes for a bit, so you never know.

As hinted at, this one’s more for the 90’s kids and fanboys of that era, but even if you hated those rather anti-metal, faux-punk years with the heat of a thousand suns, rest assured: there’s at least one killer release covered within…

Shall we, then?

Full Bush – Movie Night EP (Brutal Panda Records) (December 3)

Depressive, almost darkwave gothic end of the (retro) 90’s indie, almost (but not quite) riot grrl scene. Light elements of Concrete Blonde and stronger ones of Curve blend in an odd way that evokes a more accomplished, cleaner produced Breeders or Veruca Salt, particularly on standout power ballad “one second”.

Even odder bands peek through the hazy curtain at the savvy listener. Luscious Jackson, even Magnavox on “sweet n low”. A Hellhammerish riff drops into something far jazzier (perhaps the Luscious Jackson influence again) on the verses in “movie night”. Finally things close out on the miserablist “wild heart”.

Does it ever quite fall into Bikini Kill/Sleater Kinney/L7 territory? Nah. And that’s probably a good thing, as this also implies the band can actually play and deliver melodies, however xanax-informed.

It’s not quite our cup of tea, but more in the sense of its Life Is Strange/Before the Storm faux-Singles era grunge/”punk” (repeat after me, young’uns. There was no punk or metal in the 90’s, until the very end of the decade. It was all “college rock” cum indie, grunge, aggro and nu-, false pretenders to the throne that most of us were all too glad to see vanishing in the rearview mirror.

While Full Bush (love that name…) are a solid act with a hell of a lot more merit than, say, 4 Non Blondes or Babes in Toyland, it’s still too negative toned for our tastes. There’s too much sadness, and too little fight. Too much seriousness, and not enough humor to leaven it. It’s not even the true, overwhelming immanent darkness of gothic rock and the more authentic forms of black metal…just workaday major depressive blahs.

You know, the sort of thing you work through and move beyond, not something you choose to wallow in till you drown.

Even so, liked one or two tracks here quite a bit on their own objective merit, most notably “one second”.

Brute Force Trauma – World is Burning (DiSTAT Records) (December 17)

Interesting…these guys self identify as crust punk. But how much of this sound can you really trace back to the likes of Discharge and GBH, as opposed to the black speed thing that comprises 99% of the USBM scene (and selected German iterations thereof, like Desaster or even Sweden’s Aura Noir or modern day Darkthrone?)

That’s what I’m hearing here. Growly belch vox trying to be all scary and shit, driving simplistic blackthrash to black speed riffing. Why even pull it out of genre to compare to something so unlike as punk (however base an iteration thereof)?

That said, always appreciate a good dose of speed and aggression like this, which is why so much ostensibly questionable USBM and “war metal” tend to get some measure of respect in these pages.

Sometimes the basics are all you need.

The Browning – End of Existence (Spinefarm) (December 3)

To take a listen to closer “fearless”, it may seem that somewhere between the electro-gothic metal of Lacuna Coil and Gothminister lies The Browning. But don’t let that fool ya.

As the album progresses, it becomes apparent that these guys fall far more into the deathcore and electronic arenas than the aforementioned, more obviously metal-adjacent acts.

To wit…there’s a hell of a lot of belching and screaming going down, and those detuned riffs veer between lunkhead neanderthal pedal tone rhythmic patterns and Korn/Primus style random noise over proper note based solos and fills. It’s very nu metallish, particularly on stinkers like the title track.

Sadly, there’s not much else to report, here. Three to five tracks on, and it’s just more of the same, piled higher and deeper. I guess if you’re one of those pimply faced high school outcasts who swear by the likes of Synyster Gates (what a stupid nom du guerre…) and Suicide Silence (even stupider!), this should be right up your alley, file next to Five Finger Death Punch (the all time stupidest!)

All others need not apply.

Crown Lands – Odyssey Vol 1 (Universal Canada / Spinefarm) (December 2)

Well, you can’t argue with their logic.

This Canuck duo takes the stance that music has become too sterile and overly produced in the sense of sterile perfectionism, and that the live, first take recording tends to be the best, bum notes and all. Anyone who’s heard the themes and bumpers to Third Eye and Weird Scenes knows we also stand on the side of “what I have (played), I have (played)”, so long as the whole is served by the parts that comprise it (however imperfect some of the latter may be). It’s all about the feel and where the music takes both performer and listener, fuck the rest.

So these guys use the idea that since so many famous live albums in the 70’s remain so beloved…why sweeten the mix? Hit record and let’s go…

As such, what you get here is a live on stage performance…without a crowd. Damn covid. Even so, you get the idea.

The band comes off like an overly mellow cross between Zebra and where Zeppelin probably would have went if they continued in Presence mode. It’s a bit boring, but has a few moments of life scattered around the thin toned, echoing mix, and while hardly my idea of a killer live album (that would be more like Racer X Live Extreme Volume 1-2, too many later Zappa releases or Scorpions Worldwide Live, if you’re asking), this may well land with the older stoner crowd.

Dessiderium – Aria (The Artisan Era) (December 10)

Well, this was pretty nice…for the most part, anyway!

Mellow, lush, airy keyboards bolster jumpy, nervous prog riffing and flash leads over clean vocals throughout “the persecution complex”, which comes off somewhere between latter day Fates Warning and Traced In Air era Cynic. Nice stuff, until GAH!! …one man band Alex Haddad starts growling and screaming at you like a castrated pit bull. Why, man, why?!?!

If anything, “white morming in a world she knows” is even nicer, with its clean dual harmonies and nearly djent note cluster leads, still in this mellow pillow of keyboards and clean toned, reverb-awash guitars. Until, you guessed it, he double times it, starts blastbeating and growling like a fool.

People, what the fuck is this foolish thing you all seem to find obligatory? I speak to so many folks, particularly those who love pretty much everything in the prog arena, and it’s not just yours truly. Not by a long shot. Almost to a man (or woman, for that matter), EVERYONE hates the screamy growly shit. Hell, I’m the only one defending it where appropriate, i.e. in death and black metal. Enough, already. You don’t have to make a fool of yourself and lose prospective listeners just to try to be “cool” with the early high school crowd. The rest of us just think you’re a loser for doing it.

So anyway, that generally applicable PSA aside? This is some really decent stuff, very expansive sounding, relaxing yet flashy and well produced stuff, until the double time blastbeat n’ snarlin’ shit kicks in once again, at which point you just get up to hit the fast forward button and wonder when if ever all these kids’ll see the light and drop that crap like the hot, stinking mess that it is.

Drop the screamo, Alex. You nearly had a winner, here.

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event 

Now here’s a nice surprise.  Somehow dropped into the same folder as the next band we’re about to address, we find and cover an Aussie band named Ilium, whose EP Quantum Evolution Event is…amazingly good. And I mean, breathtakingly so.

Power metal in the European bent, but with enough of a NWOBHM and melodic metal orientation to save them from the cookie cutter Helloweenisms that mark so many acts from the Old Country (and leave the admittedly spottier and earlier US power metal scene so much more vital and worthy than its newer, strangely more popular Euro variant).

There’s a dash of prog to all this, but the sheer bombast, the catchy, memorable riffs, the Iron Maidenisms of dual harmony leads, the smooth AOR style harmony vocals…wow. It may be a tad too pretty for denizens of the darker edges of the metal spectrum, but seriously. If you can’t find something to absolutely love in this one, you’re deaf in one ear and blind in one eye, and it’s likely your ajna.

I don’t know how this one wound up hiding where it did…but Illium, hats off to you, you’ve just dropped one of the top releases of 2021.

Damn good stuff, go find this one and get it for yourselves, stat.

IKITAN – “Darvaza y Brinicle” (Taxi Driver Records) (December 3)

Occasionally, bands will reach out to us directly, in this case an Italian act by the name of Ikitan, who we’d previously had some good words for.

Apparently on Dec. 3, Taxi Driver will be releasing a whopping 30 copies of a physical cassette (and for some bizarre reason, a Bic pen!) of this double A sided single (or as they’d have it, “two singles released together”).

Ikitan’s M.O.,for those curious, has nothing whatsoever to do with Ilium. They’re working more of a stoner rock sound vaguely akin to the mighty Kyuss (Blues for the Red Sun era, naturally), very trancelike and airy with open chords and prominent, throbbing bass and drums.

“Darvaza” is by far our choice for the one to check out, but if you prefer things a bit more strident and pointed, “brinicle” is far from shabby. It takes till around the 2 1/2 minute mark to really pick up, but from there, it’s like a subway train barrelling down on you, all shoegaze guitars multilayered and filling the ears with an inescapable vibe of doom that some more basic distorted barre chords seem to fulfill. Wasn’t happy that the false ending didn’t lead us back to said midsection, instead choosing to wallow in the more basic stoner thing till close…but it passes muster overall.

All instrumental, but busy and affecting enough that you won’t really notice. Decent stuff.

Adliga – Vobrazy (Wroth Emitter) (November 5)

And here’s another one who came to us directly, from Belarus. They work a very deliberate sound that borders on both epic metal and doom, somewhat akin to the UK’s venerable Solstice or Majestic Ryte, but with more sparse moments allowing for throaty female alto vocals to take over.

There’s a strange tension between the punchy, angular riffing (which reminded yours truly of such off kilter acts as Krabathor) and the oft quavering, folk inspired vocals. It was like some gothic death metal act tried scoring The Viy, if you can picture such a thing…

There are some letdowns, as when some creepy male death belches (which were weird enough to be acceptable) are met by harsher ones from our heroine. But thankfully, most of her work is at least clean, if hardly the sort of light operatic thing you’d get with, say, Ana Mladovinici of Magica. That said, neither are we talking Arkona (Rus)’s Masha Scream, either…so be thankful for small favours, I guess.

What we certainly did appreciate was the band’s tendencies towards a decided mysterioso feel, almost post black metal/atmospheric black on a track like “zyvy”, though far better explored on album highlights “zman” and “bol na sercy”.

No, it’s not necessarily ideal, but it is interesting and has its moments. And with so many bands releasing direct to the general public these days without A&R or any managerial and producer oversight to hone and refine their respective sounds into something more potent and individualistic? You have to accept the positives you do find, and gloss over the failings to a certain degree.

Nobody’s perfekt, as a Gabe Kaplan comedy once put it.

And given that? I think those looking for something a bit off kilter may well appreciate this one, at least for a listen.