Micro-Reviewery 5: Catacombed, Cranial Crusher, October Falls


And yet even more stuff from the past few weeks that deserves no more than a brief paragraph.


Catacombed – Cave Beast

This one track does it’s best to sound like a cave beast in some catacombs and gleefully succeeds. In reality, it’s just a french guy recording echo drips and bass blorps, but the guttural sewer monster vocals really help the listener suspend disbelief.


Cranial Crusher – Necrópole

Pretty generic thrash from Brazil. The best thrash never experiments, but here something’s off. Maybe the song’s suck. The last track in particular manages to bury itself over the course of six minutes with its repetitive riffs. Still, over the fourteen minute run time, only sixty seconds are slow.


October Falls – Kulo

There’s a small group of metal bands that want you to believe that hundreds of years ago, acoustic guitars were the shit. Everyone crowded around medieval campfires eating their greasy turkey legs and drinking mead out of goblets studded with random gems, listening to some guy pluck one some strings while the wind blew through the wooded forests and castles of yore. They’re wrong, and so is this two track single.


Black Kirin – National Trauma


junkheadv1tmbBlack Kirin – National Trauma

It takes a lot to weird me out. I’ll listen to hours of throat singing, musique concrete, harsh noise, whatever, and I won’t bat an eye. If anything, radio music is what makes me feel uncomfortable. What’s truly grotesque is the notion that mainstream music has a cosmic appeal and objective acceptance. Godspeed to anything that lashes out against the norm, at least I can relate to being anti-everything.

Even so, Black Kirin is pretty strange. Their first full length has a truly unique sound that sounds simultaneously familiar and foreign.

On the most base level, National Trauma is melodic death a la Carcass’s Swansong, a style that’s as palatable as extreme metal can get. The vocals are mostly high shriek, the guitars play tuneful and dexterous evil riffs. You’ve heard it a million times before, and there’s little imagination left in the style.

Normally I’d give it a D- and dismiss it as derivative, but the very dominant folk elements are impossible to ignore. Rather than hopelessly boring renaissance fair acoustic masturbation, Black Kirin is into traditional Chinese folk flourishes. For the western listener, it will initially sound very corny and cliché. Your great grandfather would probably say it sounds oriental. You’ll either love it or vomit all over. The first track bears all: if the dizu flutes and erhu guitars don’t turn you off, the strange woman screeching like a cat in heat will.

But both style’s are well integrated. If you took out the metal, the folk would play on and vice versa. After awhile, the flutes, plucked guitars, and pentatonic pianos end up being essential to the formula, and you almost wish the Carcass singer would go away so the scary cat lady could whine and croon you to the metal heavens. Easily my record of the year so far.


Em-Body The Happiness No One Deserves

Tayholev1tmbhe Body – No One Deserves Happiness

This album starts out scary. I was listening to it while playing the classic hit, Ultima III: Exodus. I put it on right before I went into the Snake dungeon. The hardest part about the dungeons in Ultima games is remembering where you are. Even though I have played through other dungeons in the game, I keep forgetting to look at the compass. That’s what listening to No One Deserves Happiness feels like. One can be wondering around and looking for the Mark of the Snake when the torch blows out and all sense of direction is lost.

The entire album has distorted off in the distance youtube llama style screaming throughout. This is a very annoying sound. Eventually it will sound more like a llama and less like a deranged psychotic episode.

The first four tracks climb downwards into an increasingly unappealing mire of comforting horns and female vocals mixed with a high pitched squeal and lightly assertive pounding of samples and deep toms. Track two has a calm plateau at the end followed by grind and noise for track three. Track four is aptly named “Hallow / Hollow.”

After this, the whole feel starts to change. The next track, “Two Snakes,” is reminiscent of wondering in a dungeon, but more of an acid techno remix of one of the first tracks. “Adamah” continues down this track and sounds like the background music from an 80’s love making scene if the scene took place on a conveyor belt full of glass scraping against limestone rocks while Sinead O’Connor yells into a bottomless pit.

There is a super snoozer on track 8, which is just noise with atmosphere, but it serves as contrast. “Prescience” is mostly noise with a less interesting ending. The final track is a good ending to this atmospheric noise album. There is some lyrical content and a nice wind down.

Their bandcamp feels like it was written by someone who doesn’t really listen to noise. This certainly is not the “grossest pop album,” though I imagine someone thought that due to the textured layering of samples, singing, and instrumentation.

Like music that will never be on the radio? Give No One Deserves Happiness a shot.

The balron’s poison wicks away more life with each step and spent torches are tossed away like a trail of bread crumbs as foot prints circle in endless patterns like the white on black text of the Body’s bandcamp page.

Jesu/Sun Kil Moon – Jesu/Sun Kil Moon


junkheadv1tmbJesu/Sun Kil Moon – Jesu/Sun Kil Moon

Collaborations are a big deal among the washed up underground rock star crowd. This one features the two main guys from the Red House Painters and Godflesh, albeit with their two post-’90s bands that nobody really cares about.

It’s the typical post-metal/shoe-gaze din, with bloated down-tuned guitars grinding away like the apocalypse happened yesterday and you didn’t even hear about it. Near the middle of the album, there’s a few crappy electronic tracks in a row and all of them are pretty boring. The whole thing struggles to be vaguely ambient with repetitious ten minute romps through the same synth lines, but mostly it comes off as boring and too structured.

The vocals aren’t much better, a shame considering that the Red House Painter guy never shuts the fuck up. He mumbles through spoken word observations on life, touching on various topics including women, life on the road, women, existence, women, and women. I’m guessing Red House Painter guy’s had sex with ten women his whole life and wrote each of the album’s ten stream-of-consciousness gabs about one of them. There’s a lot of nickel-and-dime romantic irony stuck deep in the ’90s, but at least it’s honest.

And that’s the one cool thing about Jesu/Sun Kil Moon: nobody’s lying here. Just two old washed-up indie-rock guys having a few brews and banging out an album. You can even figure out the middle-aged hipster conversations that went on during the production.

“Dude, check out this cool six second loop I made in FL Studios.” “Whoa! Man, loop that for eight minutes and call it quits, I have to stop off at Trader Joe’s and get some Organic Baby Spinach.” “Alright dude. Hey, have you tried their Cookie Butter? That’s my shit right there.”

“Man, I keep thinking about how me and my girlfriend circa 1988 listened to Candy Apple Grey by Husker Du all the time.” “DUUUUUDE, PUT THAT IN THE LYRICS!!!”

“Dude, it’s so hard to come up with good guitar parts when all I can think about is how I still need to grind my own coffee, wash my Miniature Schnauzer with some Purple Urchin soap, and ride my Amsterdam-style bike all about town.” “Whoa, what’d you say man? Sorry, I was spinning my own yarn to make this totally rad fleece. I can’t even imagine not using all natural fibers.”


Micro-Reviewery 4: Lethargic Euphoria, Napalm Ted, etc.


Still even more stuff from the past few weeks that deserves no more than a brief paragraph.


Lethargic Euphoria – Standstill

Black-gaze is a genre so formative that you never really know what to expect from band to band. Lethargic Euphoria has an instrumental style like Ghost Bath for a good while, but the last twenty minutes is like ’90s emo without the whiny vocalists. As a result, I now understand that the only reason I didn’t like ’90s emo was the whiny vocalists.



Remember That You Will Die – Remember That You Will Die

Remembering that these guys will die brings me some solace. Vaguely experimental in nature, all four of these tracks are hampered by their repetitive structure: silly part that recalls another genre, black metal boredom, back to silly part. In order, the sandwiching sections are Depeche Mode gothic, crappy electronica, and Slint-style math rock times two. You’ll barely be able to get past the second track’s intro.



Napalm Ted – Into the Black Ooze EP

Grindish blast from Finland, the high points are definitely the punkiest parts, which all die near the four minute mark of this twelve minute short play. After that, there’s way too much death metal in the mix, featuring a lot of that awful dun-dun-CHUG dun-dun-CHUG riff.



Porreria – Noise Carnage EP

Weird noisecore album. First couple tracks are inaudible digital garble with a couple shrieks, breaking into a much more conventional grind noise sound. Rather than laying into power chords, the guitarist does a lot of high-pitched noodling with some dexterous finger randomness. When mixed with the ultra tinny cymbal sound and the vocalists shrill BLAH-BLAH-BLAHs, this can get pretty grating, but at least it’s something I haven’t heard. Pretty unique for such a worn-out genre.






ayholev1tmbRicky Warwick – When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang the Blues) and Hearts On Trees

Ricky Warwick is busy. He is apparently always recording and touring with multiple bands, including Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders. Him and and Sam Robinson’s new double album is split into band rock and roll and intimate acoustic feels.

The first LP starts off real good with classic anthemic Irish rock. The title track sounds boring at first but keeps going in the same direction until the listener becomes interested. Shove enough nostalgia down someone’s ear canal and they’ll miss Hank Williams, too. “That’s Where the Story Ends,” is a good cowboy rock with some decent spring reverb on the vocals and trumpets on the hooks. However, things take a turn with “The Son of the Wind,” which attempts to take to add a hard edge. Immediately after is track nine, which is okay simply because it has dual guitar hooks and an okay song structure. “Yesteryear” takes it back to basic rock and roll and is a semi-autobiographical piece about how life is what you make it. Sans the speed bumps on track 8 and 9, this LP is great old-fogey high energy rock and roll. Have I mentioned this is rock and roll enough?

The second LP has mostly singer-songwriter material. Ricky pours his heart out, per the usual, over four chords. He maintains a decent variety of sounds, as he should being as old and skilled as he is. It’s refreshing that each song has different material to it. The title track and the tracks after are, sonically, faster and more entertaining than the first three.

Of the bonus tracks, “The Whiskey Song,” low energy Irish pub rock, is the only mildly entertaining one on the first LP, and “Love Owes” and ” I Can See My Life (From Here)” have some cool lyrical imagery. The other bonus tracks are boring and difficult to focus on. I blame the melodies.

Warwick keeps things rockin’ and real on this Northern Irish release. You can get the double CD from Amazon for less than the MP3’s.

SOTO – Divak


junkheadv1tmbSOTO – Divak

I was really, really excited about this album. Jeff Scott Soto should be a class act, having lent his talents to Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Shenker, Axel Rudi Pell, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. After decades of rockin’, why hasn’t he been elevated to legend status?

Divak is a woefully pathetic answer to my question. Based on his pedigree, you’d figure this would be an epic, pompous slice of melodic rock. All the trimmings should be there, tuneful guitars, high-pitched vocals, the works.

Instead, SOTO sounds like Nickelback. Jeff Scott Soto puts on his best Chad Kroeger impersonation and lets it rip. I’ve never listened to Nickelback outside of whatever they play at Meijer when you’re looking for adult diapers, so I put my investigative journalist hat on to see if SOTO really was Canadian rock clonery.

I picked a random sample of Nickelback’s popular albums: Silver Side Up, All The Right Reasons, and Here and Now. All of them are pretty indebted to ’80s hard rock, but they’re way, way too polished. The hooks are never that good, a little too informed by grunge for comfort. They’re all calculated for mass radio support and lack any sort of soul as a result.

So yeah, that’s Divak.




ayholev1tmbBirdy – Beautiful Lies

Loose rhymes about longing, basic back beat with overbearing floor tom, super short verse fragments lasting half a breath, late 2000’s shoegaze ripoff delayed reverb, and Florence and the Machine ripoff singing. Putting all of these together seems like a bad idea, but it works out great for Birdy on a no-surprise, highly anticipated, among the hip community, third studio album, Beautiful Lies, by the girl with the long name. Bongaerde is associated with huge success and it’s no secret why: she knows what the people want. But she also wants to write good music.

One might not personally be into this kind of music, which is a combination of Mumford and Sons and Adele, and one might also say this sounds like the garbage that’s all over the radio, and one would be right by me on both accounts. However, this album is actually good because it is listenable and still meets the qualifications for radio airplay, most of it anyway. It’s unpacking time.

The album starts out in a positive direction with a very eastern sounding intro, but then contrived back beats take over but not in a way that would make one want to shut it off. One will also take note that the lyrical content is strong and positive in a millennial fashion. One might wonder if Birdy would support Bernie for president?

After the intro, the songwriter comes out in full force and writes some good ol’ fashioned, uh, songs. You know, the kind people write, not machines. “Lost it all” is arpeggiated soft piano with some cool not too forced singing on top and the lyrics pick up the pace on “Silhouette,” a piece about some deep symbolic relationship between her darkest and unknown dreams and the hard plastic shell surrounding all of us that hides our secret life inside it, inside the shell called skin.

There are blips of rave and electronic atmosphere, but the majority of the album sounds like real instruments, which one might listen to and say, “What are these unfiltered and unadulterated sounds? They sound real.” One can hope her voice is real as well.

Given the majority of the lyrical content is about striving and pushing through heartbreak and typical things that radio listeners let others think about for them, “Unbroken” has some great insight about time being an unavoidable obstacle but also a guide in life.

The title track is the shortest track, but has some of the best melodies and songwriting. Probably the best track and the last track.

Deluxe tracks are a snore worth avoiding.

Did I mention Birdy is freakin 19? No. Because it’s downright unbelievable. If I was back in high school, I would gladly rip down my Brittany Spears poster and replace it with a Birdy. If you can stomach music that doesn’t feature blistering guitar riffs, thumping double bass, and screaming heroin-inspired old man vocals, this Beautiful Lies is well worth a listen.

Brünndl – Brünndl


junkheadv1tmbBrünndl – Brünndl

In the world of metal, a little sense of melody goes a long way. All the NWOBHM bands understood this, and that’s what made them such an enduring influence on metal across the world. Nothing beats a memorable riff, an afterthought vocal line, and a driving beat.

Few other genres can really nail this combination, which makes Brünndl so bizarre. The album was simply labeled pagan black metal, which made me assume it was going to be the standard tremolo-guitar blast beat orgasm. While black metal is easily the strongest influence on their debut, there’s a lot more going on under the hood.

Out of the blue, the songs will effortlessly shift into standard rock beats. The vocalist randomly starts doing one of those folky wails, and the guitars start playing discernible riffs. You’ll start tapping your toe, and then you’ll start moving your head. Then, out of nowhere, you’ll realize you’re on full-out gonzo metalhead mode, spitting blood from your mouth and air-guitaring this shit until the walls cave in. And finally, when the riff’s about to grow tired and return you to reality, the whole switches up again and you get all hyped to slaughter some more goats and rub them all over your effigies of Vlad Tepes.

The only real way to understand is to do a thorough analysis, so take “Magaan”. It starts with black metal, twists into a folk-metal crawl, returns to black metal, turns into a sea-shanty, and ends up as melodic barroom death metal complete with a shrieked oi ending every verse.

It’s all over the place, but none of the seams show. They don’t bat an eye, like they’re veterans who’ve churned this stuff out for decades. I think Brünndl’s rockin’ attack will have a longer shelf life than the blackgaze and post-black atmosphere trends. While eventually artsy-fartsy dudes with face paint always go out of style, dudes with face paint who rock the fuck out will live forever.


Micro-Reviewery 3: Ceifador, After the Burial, Blood Ceremony, etc.


Even more stuff from the past few weeks that deserves no more than a brief paragraph.


Ceifador – Heavy Metal 666

A lot of people forget that Brazil is one of the biggest d-beat countries in the history of punk. Even their thrash just ends up sounding like Discharge: fast, repetitive, and totally awesome. You’d assume these guys are punks who think putting Heavy Metal and 666 in their album title will give them instant international appeal, but they draw heavily from Bathory and Venom in terms of gutter slime sound. That’s a good thing.



After the Burial – Dig Deep

This band sucks. Half the time they sound like In Flames and half the time they sound like Meshuggah. They don’t even bother meshing the sounds, it’s just one or the other. I’d say you’re better off making a mixtape of your favorite In Flames and Mesuggah songs, but they suck, too.



Blood Ceremony – Lord of Misrule

Listening to new music has quickly put stoner rock into my no-no category. There’s so much crappy drugged-out hippie shit coming out, it’s getting difficult to really follow along. I swear to God, if I discover another band with a name like Acid Yeti, I’m going to puke all over their souls, causing their souls to get grossed out and vomit some of their own ecto-spew, causing all sorts of spectral anomalies. If you think that description’s trippy-cool, then you really ought to Blood Ceremony. It’s like a metal version of Jefferson Starship’s or HP Lovecraft’s good songs with lots and lots of flutes. Crisp and clean metal for the sober psych fan, even if most tracks overstay their welcome.



Mordbrand – Hymns Of The Rotten

How can people stand this shit? Vanilla death metal’s just bad, and Mordbrand’s “best-of” does nothing to change my wise and objective opinion. At least they don’t use blast beats.



Fillwithlight – ???

I was looking really hard for a lo-fi folk album in the spirit of The Mountain Goats or some other crappy band. Two decades after the height of said awful genre, I was figuring it got better. Instead, we have this nameless, faceless album that tries to break itself up into four pieces using German words for different seasons and act all great about it’s non-existent concept. Why are the titles German? So half the audience will just look at your song titles and drool and pick their nose and not give a shit? What does it matter when all the tracks sound the same? Herbst isn’t more balls out rockin’ than Sommer or anything, and when a lo-fi album is twenty-seven minutes and feels three epochs long, it’s just a poser piece of trash devoid of any creativity. This guy better watch out, because the hackneyed garbage police are going to come to his door some day, drag him into the street, beat him senseless with a mallet, and shoot him like the dog he is with one of those enormous cartoon rocket launchers.

Be sure to check out the album here.