Friday, 17 April 2015

Trust Your Heart– Trust Your Heart (2015) / 0%

Turd Fannyback Christian Metal

Oh god (appropriate use of that word considering what I review), this is truly something else... After releasing a bunch of awful black metal albums under the name Animae Capronii, Cesare Sannino decided to change the name of his project to Trust Your Heart. After album titles like Jesus Is My Hope When I Am Hopeless , Heavenly Unblack Metal or Please Forgive Me Oh Lord, he probably wanted to completely remove the black metal aesthetics from his music. Sort of weird when he already had a heavy/power metal band under his own name and released four full lengths till 2010 but I guess they weren't about JESUS!

Cesare might seem like a troll but I'm 100% certain he's as legit as these old grand-mothers I see leaving the church when I go get some beer at the convenience store near my place. I mean, he's from Italy, a country widely known for its catholic roots. I like to believe that people are serious about their art, if we can call this album “art”, that is. Anyhow, the album isn't bad because it's about Christianity, I like a lot of doom metal about Jesus and Warlord freaking rocks, it's bad because the music is simply awful manure.

Jesus christ is the light, the word of god incarnated”

Trust Your Heart is like a very bad B series movie, you know like these Chinese movies by Godfrey Ho that you watch with your friends to have fun and laugh at how bad they are? It's so bad it's good, it made me laugh a lot and it was fun to share the experience with others. The music is heavy metal, I guess? It's hard to say because it sounds like it's totally unfinished. The programmed drums are bad, they sound like a little wooden stick punching some cardboard and the guitars are often replaced with a twenty bucks keyboard/keytar found in a pawn shop. It's sterile, under-produced (self produced, of course) “metal” with really unusual (in a bad, autistic way) melodies. He even tries to include some black metal like this cover of this (probably awful) British unblack metal at the end. It doesn't even fit with the rest of the album, it's just there at the end, finishing the turd.

He tried to mix some music genres to create an “epic” atmosphere like many legendary and competent Italian bands did before him (think of Dark Quarterer or Adramelch) but he simply isn't talented enough to pull it off. It's cheap casio music that will be played at his local church by an embarrassed priest. I'd be embarrassed to actually release something with the kind of vocals present on this album, they're so whiny, weak and so annoyingly obnoxious. He sounds like the worst singers who did auditions for TV shows like The Voice that you can find on the Internet. He's like an Italian William Hung but it's even funnier since he's taking himself seriously.

With song titles like “Dark Thoughts in my Head” and “Too Many Visions of the Apocalypse”, you know you're in for a trip into putrid cheese territories. The dude can't write semi coherent lyrics to save the life of Jesus, I know it's not his first language and Italians aren't exactly well known for the quality of their English but come on now. It's middle school level stuff written by a dude wearing a fannyback.

The dude behind Trust Your Dream is so amateurish that he can't find anyone to join his projects and since that's the case, he has to do everything on his own but he barely has any skills whatsoever so his music isn't worth anything.

Indeed, it's a free download (well, at least it's free 'cause no one should have to pay for this crap) is in 128 kbs, I feel that a better bit rate would probably ruin the experience altogether. The shitty quality fits the awfulness of the music, like mustard and ketchup on a hot dog, it's the best experience you can get for choosing to listen to something like that. Like hot dogs, it's surely bad for you but you'll at least enjoy it. Nevertheless, unlike processed meat, this will never leave my body, it will forever be in my head like Christ is in heart, I guess?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Cave of Swimmers - Reflection (2015) / 98%

Superb artwork, quite evocative

The water is great, the doom is greater

Cave of Swimmers were on my check out list for a while when I received the promo for Reflection, what a better way to discover a band than with their newest album? I was more than surprised with the quality of this band, they're perhaps my discovery of the year (or maybe the decade???) so far, it's so good, it's almost hard to comprehend.

The band is actually a duo composed of Venezuelan childhood friends who both moved to Miami, Florida in the mid 2000s and oh boy, they're so talented that I became emotionally unstable when I first heard the album. I only get these sort of reactions once or twice a year nowadays. It's hard to discover something that will trouble your tripes that much when you're deeply involved in metal, especially doom, a genre I've been exploring thoroughly for a while now. These guys touched me with their music like Opeth did when I was a mere teenager who was still buying the latest System of a Down albums.

What are they playing though? That's why I'm here, right? Well, it's hard to explain but I'll try... At their core, they're a very epic doom band with soaring clean vocals and it's not everyday you hear a better singer than Messiah Marcolin but Guillermo Perez is unbelievable and chilling. His deep, rich vocals are so powerful than they probably woke up Hugo Chavez from the dead. He's operatic as hell, he's very lyrical and delivers the lyrics in a hypnotic way. Musically though, they're nowhere near what most epic doom metal bands are doing these days (see generic bands like Below or even the latest Sorcerer who are on aping at the altar of their Swedish masters). These guys are truly doing something else here, they include a fair load of progressive metal/rock, especially in the glorious, melodic and intricate guitar solos but also with the river-like song structures. It's hard to describe their progressive side, it has the classiness of Queen's heaviest material and the epic might of Rainbow's Rising and even some Rush (the first song starts with some keyboards similar to Rush's 2112) To emulate these bands and to honor their heritage, you need quite the singer and Cave of Swimmers is lucky to have such a talent.

They don't stop there though, they'd be mad not to continue their superb blend of styles! The duo also includes some Latin influences, like the percussion break in the first song “The Prince of the Power of the Air” that made me change my pants when I first heard it. It made me think of the experimental Latino side of The Mars Volta mixed with the operatic power of Dantesco's Puerto Rican epic doom. This link to their homeland doesn't feel forced or gimmicky, it's an integral part of their sound and it's influencing the other sides of their identity. There's also some stoner rock/metal and some alternative rock bits (more prevalent in their self titled debut album though). A stew of all good things can only be great if the sauce is thick and able to form a connected whole, they manage to be cohesive throughout the four songs.

The album is sort of composed of two sides. The first one includes two long numbers (both around ten minutes) and the second has two shorter compositions containing the self titled instrumental track that's ending “Reflection”. The release also includes a shorter edit of the first track, it's the featured song on their Bandcamp page. The album, excluding that edited song, is less than thirty five minutes and you've left wanting more since it's so damn great. I think the band has the potential to become even more epic and grandiose and that's only a tease (but a magnificent one) of things to come. At least they're not offering a bloated eighty minutes album like some bands are doing.

Lyrically, the band is very focused and doesn't use a lot of words, they prefer to repeat the tremendous lines and create a mesmerizing feel and it's so freaking catchy. Sometimes less is more but that's only the case for their lyrics since they go all in everywhere else.

Proving they're not scared of experimenting with anything, Cave of Swimmers managed to craft a compelling and very smart diverse album with a bombastic atmosphere and some of the best and most interesting musicianship the metal world has to offer.

There's almost nothing here I don't like but the short length has left me hungry for more just like you want to eat a BLT and there's no more bacon in the house, it's that tragic. But sometimes, a tease can be better and more rewarding that the actual act. Cave of Swimmers made me want to jump into their clear and interior pond, that's for sure. So remove your coats, put a smile on your face, a swimsuit on your body and dive into their excellent music.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Papa Bear Tony's Podcast - April 2015

Here's a very diverse (but hopefully cohesive) podcast about plenty of stuff I really dig. Some of these albums were reviewed on this blog (Ningen Isu, Aktor, Mausoleum Gate and Legionnaire). There's a whole section dedicated to Québec rock and this was fun to do. From pure heavy metal to post punk and progressive doom, there's some of my favorite music here. Enjoy!


Here's the tracklist: 

Band – song – album – year

First section 0:00 to 8:30
Circle – Satulinnut – Sunrise - 2002
Circle – Tulilintu – Tulikoira - 2005
Aktor – Buried by the Sea – I Am the Psychic Waves – 2013

Second section 8:30 to 24:35
Ningen-Isu – Motto Hikari Wo – Rashoumon - 1993
Ningen-Isu – Dokusaisha Saigo No Yume – Ougon no Yoake – 1992
Sigh – A Messenger from Tomorrow – Graveward – 2015

Third section 24:40 to 45:34
Galaxie – Dragon – Zulu - 2015
Corridor –Panique au village - Un magicien en toi - 2013
Chocolat - Fantôme – Tss Tss - 2014
Fred Fortin – Grandes jambes – Plastrer la lune - 2009
Madking Ludwig – Division Sun – Seven Stairways – 2008

Fourth section 45:34 to 1hr08
Seremonia – Alfa ja Omega – Kristalliarkki – 2015
Screaming Females – Ripe – Rose Mountain – 2015
Paul Banks – Games for Days – Julian Plenti is.. Skyscraper – 2009
Kesä - Tuuli kääntyy – Kesä - 2015
Kesä – Harmaakuvia – Kesä – 2015
The Exploding Eyes Orchestra – My Father the Wolf – I – 2015

Fifth section 1hr10 to 1hr32
Remmirath – Iram of the Pillars - Shambhala Vril Saucers – 2015
Solar Halos – The Vast White Plains – Solar Halos – 2014
Cave of Swimmers – The Prince of the Power of the Air – Reflection -2015

Sixth section 1hr33 to 1hr44
Mausoleum Gate – Magic of the Gypsy Queen – Mausoleum Gate – 2014
Legionnaire – The Guardian – The Enigma of Time – 2015
Lord Fist – Master of the Witches – Green Eyleen - 2015

Brenner and Baltimore Trilogy

John Brenner is an influential musician (or he should be!) from Baltimore, Maryland, a place known for its doom metal scene. He's known for being the guitarist and vocalist of Revelation but also Against Nature. He deserves to get the recognition he deserves and I hope this trilogy will get him one or two new fans!

The first part is Chowder, an instrumental prog doom band Brenner joined before their split. He's actually not on their sole album but he helped with the production.

The second part is Against Nature's The Anxiety of Influence. A giant two songs album of epic proportions.

The third and final part is Revelation's classic album Never Comes Silence. A subtle and masterful doom album.

Revelation – Never Comes Silence (1992) / 91%

Baltimore & Brenner trilogy, part III: Shush!

The early 1990s weren't the perfect era for traditional doom, it was considered a sort of regressive music and it wasn't heavy enough to compete with the uprising of death metal and the groovy proto-nu metal of Pantera. Doom was also getting extreme with bands like Eyehategod so, trad doom didn't have a lot of place and was confined to the underground even though classic top notch material was released (such as Iron Man's Black Night, the Obsessed's Lunar Womb or anything Count Raven did) still bands like Cathedral made it but times were dark for the genre.

Revelation are one of those bands deserving of a better place in metal's history because of the sheer quality of their music. Despite changing the creative core of the lineup after this album, the band stayed pertinent with ...yet So Far. Never Comes Silence was then the last album under the leadership of John Brenner before the reformation in 2007 with a new lineup (the exact same dudes as Against Nature) and it's perhaps the band's finest hour (well more like 70 minutes, to be exact).

The only difference in the lineup is the presence of Josh Hart (bass) and he's as incredible but a bit more subdued than the current bassist Bert Hall Jr. Musicianship is important in doom even though it's neither complex, fast or “technical”, it's all about creating interesting atmospheres with a limited yet sufficient instrumentation. It's a trio with the usual metal or rock instruments and with their talented skills and it works fine. Brenner's solos are tremendous and very well written such as the ones in “Spectre” or “Ashes”, they're not a very heavy band even for trad doom standards but the riffs are here and they're all pretty good.

The songs are mostly long, emotional and slow. While they can speed things up, it stays morose and sad. They're definitely a precursor to the emotional side of doom metal found in bands like Warning. Revelation's lyrics are introspective and personal, something admittedly quite different from what their contemporary peers were doing and while I prefer some fancy evil or mythological subjects, it fits their music like a glove.

How thin the walls which seal my mind / How close the final episode of apathy”
What do I see in visions discreet / Futures unseen, paths not meant to be”

The progressive elements are quite subtle here, it's more in the way that songs are composed and played that they're different than their peers. It's not that obvious when you're not quite familiar with the doom genre but for me, the song structures and the type of riffs used are not owing everything to Black Sabbath like it's the case for Saint Vitus or Pentagram. Revelation plays a very smooth sort of doom and they owe a lot to Rush too. The pièce de résistance of this album is the eighteen minutes title track at the end and you can definitely hear the 70s Rush influences (think Caress of Steel) there. Nonetheless, don't make the mistake to compare it to Dream Theater's seminal classic Images and Words, released the same year as it's nowhere near the same kind of progressive metal. Revelation explores a sort of lo-fi, simple yet evocative doom.

Never Comes Silence is an underrated classic in dire need of more recognition. It's still relevant today as it was innovative for its period with the way they merged sophisticated but restrained progressive influences with a refined, sentimental yet riffy, melodic and profound approach to traditional doom metal.

Against Nature - The Anxiety of Influence (2007) / 92%

Baltimore & Brenner trilogy, part II: No problem

John Brenner reformed or took back the leadership of Revelation in 2007 after more than a decade under the mantle of Dennis Cornelius (Memory Driven, Place of Skulls) but this project was formed three years before that. At first, they were an offshoot of Revelation, a sort of kitchen sink for their weirder vibes since while their older brother can safely be categorized as progressive doom, they never got truly truly demented. They're one of those bands with such an extensive and varied discography that they're a bit scary to discover and embrace. Sadly, the band seems to be dead nowadays as Brenner has started a new charming project called Mole Hill that's continuing in the blues rock/classic rock steps Against Nature were taking since like five or six albums (2010 to 2012!). It's possibly for the best that the musicians are taking their time for a change.

They're not really going against their nature here (excuse the easy pun), it's really more an extension of their sound than a total turnaround into something else. This album is quite unique in their catalog since it's only composed of two very long tracks. Action at a Distance only contained three tracks but it's sort of instrumental ambient/space rock album so that's sort of an exception (a great one, if I may add). The songs are not vocal centric at all, there's barely any lyrics, I mean the first half of “Aporia”, the fist track is entirely instrumental. You're not expecting the vocals to come either, you're not like “ehhh, it's already been eight minutes and it's getting boring...”, no, no, no. They're so tight instrumentally that the vocals are almost unnecessary and they know how to fill a long song with a lot of creative songwriting. Also, let's be frank, John Brenner is first and foremost a guitarist, his vocals aren't quite good but he knows how to make them work when he uses them.

The trio composed of all three current Revelation members has obvious chemistry and so much talent. Bert Hall jr. is a terrific bass player, one of the best and most underrated I've ever heard, he's unreal. The bass is high in the mix since it's apparent that they preach at the altar of Rush and Geddy Lee every day. Brenner's vocals are clean, simple yet effective but yeah, his guitar riffs and solos are the real deal here. The dude knows how to write varied music with a lot of atmosphere while keeping things grounded and cohesive.

The Anxiety of Influence still has definite doom metal roots and it's perhaps one of their best albums I heard (I have yet to hear them all unfortunately, that's quite an endeavor). It's sort of a reconstructed traditional doom metal as it's using a lot of retro influences, there's even a big blues section in the second song (a prediction of things to come from the band) and there's lot of heavy prog too. The desert stoner rock sound is there even though they're from Maryland! I can hear some Kyuss as it's heavy bluesy metal/rock with a desolate vibe. Still, their sound isn't sad at all, it's groovy, almost joyful and with a lot of soul and passion. They finish the album on a very calm and serene note and it has some sort of dark beauty.

Sure, it's perhaps not the best album to start with Againt Nature because of its non traditional track-list. They have a bunch of shorter and streamlined progressive doom releases like Appease or Safe Dissonance which can serve as an introduction to the band but I believe this one of their finest releases. Against Nature is still quite unknown and it's a damn shame. They have a lot of extremely good material to check out. It's all on Bandcamp and it's cheap!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Chowder – Passion Rift (2012) / 82%

Baltimore & Brenner trilogy part I – Clam Chowder

Formed in the early 1990s by Josh Hart (guitar, synths...) and Chad Rush (drums), Chowder's sole full length album was only released in 2012 and oh boy, it's good. Hart, known for his contributions to many important doom bands located in Maryland's metropolis such as Earthride, Unorthodox or Revelation. John Brenner, leader of Revelation would later join Chowder before their split, did some recording, mixing and produced this album and also released their previous extended play on his label Bland Hand Records.

What we have here is weird and intricate instrumental progressive doom metal with an extensive use of sonic layers and a great sense of intertwined bass and guitar dynamics. The heavy guitar riffs are a force to reckon with and the loud, in your face, bass is a clear highlight (it would had been fun to hear an album with Brenner though). To be a successful instrumental band, I can see two major strategies. The first is to be as blistering and intense as possible even though your approach can be interpreted as simplistic (see the excellent Karma to Burn) and the second is to adopt a luxurious and plentiful approach. Chowder, like their peculiar name could indicate, is a rich and creamy soup of many good things.

Blending unusual and familiar doom riffs with a wide array of additional instruments (synthesizers, mellotron, theremin, acoustic guitars..), Chowder knows how to build interesting songs. They also mix longer songs like the titanic 18 minutes title track (the band itself called it their “Hemispheres” in relation to the classic Rush album) with shorter, incisive and catchy numbers. The musicianship is impressive (necessary for an instrumental band, obviously) and the songwriting is tight and airy. There's not a lot of solos but there's great technical leads and riffing (it's not Blotted Science or anything too saccharine and lifeless though) but it's fun to hear some traditional doom metal combined with space and psychedelic elements.
The band mentions the legendary Canadian proggers in the introduction of “Insidious”:

Alright. It’s Saturday night, I have no date, a two-liter bottle of Shasta, and my all-Rush mixtape. Let’s rock." -Fry in Futurama

There's some judicious use of samples throughout the release like the opening of album closer “Custody” with the vicious sound of a man being whipped, possibly from a movie such as The Passion of the Christ. These are always fun to give some personality and flavoring to the music since there's no vocals or lyrics and if it's used sporadically like it is here.

Chowder had some members who were also in hardcore bands and I guess there's a slight sludge influence here amongst the spacey progressive doom core. There's also a lot of stoner rock/metal but the melting pot still works well and sounds totally cohesive despite the numerous genres.

They're definitely not for newcomers to the genre, well the progressive doom genre isn't either but it's high value material composed with care and ingenuity. It's Rush mixed with quirky alternative rock like Primus and a huge dose of Maryland doom and it couldn't be more interesting to these ears. It's sad the band was laid to rest though since they were evolving in a rare but rewarding genre.