Sunday, 20 September 2015

Abbot – Between Our Past and Future Lives (2014) / 87%

NWOFHM #9: Fly, on your way, like a butterfly!

After three excellent singles, Abbot from Pori, Finland (home of Jussi Lehtisalo and his New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal), released their first full length almost exactly one year ago and it's pretty damn cool. The quartet is certainly a peculiar beast and another strong player in the superb Finnish doom (well, they're barely doom but they still count!) scene. Definitely in the same vein as some of Lehtisalo's projects (similar to Pharaoh Overlord's trad metal albums or the rockier stuff Circle stuff), I really liked this weird record decorated with a glorious butterfly (I still don't understand the reference... if there's one!).

Just imagine if Neil Young went to Finland, stayed there for twenty years and decided that doom, stoner metal and southern rock were cool things instead of doing yet another Bob Dylan or Gordon Lightfoot homage recorded in a telephone booth by Jack White and you aren't too far from the actual truth given to you by Abbot. Their music is rooted in southern tinged doom but there's a big classic rock influence here, I'm sure your uncle who's into Lynyrd Skynyrd would like this record! While probably not as adventurous as some of their previous singles like “Into the Light” and its harmonica introduction or the long winded power of “Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson”, the album is weird in its own way with its mix of slower, blues tracks like the superb “Mr. Prowler Man” and speedier metal tracks like “Moonsnake Child”. It's something special but it remains surprisingly quite authentic and vintage and wouldn't sound out of place on a lineup with Kadavar. I do think they're better than most of the current vintage fad though since they have those bonkers elements often found in the Finland scene that I really cherish.

They also possess this sort of garage/alternative rock influence (not too far from Dinosaur Jr.) and that's adding another layer to their nuts salad. They have this sort of tangle fun found in late 80s college rock and this combined with their southern doom basis creates one hell of a mix. There's also a lot of sleaze and grease on Between... like on the cool “Grave Encounters” that makes you feel like you're in the bayou but in reality, you're naked in a sauna with four overgrown Finnish toddlers drinking endless bottles of Karhu. Jakonen's vocals have this nasal quality and I bet he plays Dylan and Young covers when he's with his dad or something. His delivery fits the huge bluesy guitar of Jussi Jokinen (apparently not the hockey player currently playing for the Florida Panthers) who's bludgeoning your skull with thick fuzzy riffs and feelsy solos without compromises. The album is a bit short (33 minutes) and 1 or 2 doomier and slower tracks would had been nice but the soulful closer “Keep On Moving” does the job wonderfully. I'd probably kill a bunch of butterflies to be able to see this band live, it's just really good music transcending generational gaps and it delivers on all front.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Local Sounds: Volume 2.0

Here's the second volume of this series with five projects from the great city of Montréal. They're all widely different and that's a living proof of the quality of our music scene. I will not waste any time by talking about the weather or whatever, let's start with the first band!

Eliza - A Quit Smoking Soundtrack (2014)
This young Montreal band call their music « prog de casquette » or “hat prog” and while this is a weird description, it's oddly fitting. Their blend of super atmospheric and sad alternative rock certainly has progressive rock influences but the more ethereal ones. I was reminded of the Norwegian band Gaspacho a little since they both play this sort of adventurous but still accessible rock with superb, soaring clean vocals. It's romantic and the guitars are able to create these original yet familar melodies effortlessly. These Quebecois are one of the most promising bands in Montreal and hopefully their debut full length will live up to my expectations and by singing in English, Eliza can open the doors of interntational recognition a bit more easily, they're certainly quite talented and they deserve more admiration. I've missed one of their recent gigs with She Serpent (featured on Volume 1.0) and I feel bad about it.

Free download on Bandcamp

Carnior – Post-Sauce (2014)
Carnior are about to release their third extended play (and final one since they're breaking up) but this is one of their albums released last year. The instrumental quartet is quite interesting, they play an intriguing mix of neo progressive (think of The Flower Kings' love for Yes and Peter Gabriel era Genesis) with some post rock, some electro, some psychedelic, some experimental noise and a love of jazz technics. The bass is thick and heavy in the mix and the keyboard and pianos are really cool and in your face. The guitars are obviously influenced by Steve Hackett (one of the most underrated guitarists of his time) and are particularly juicy, check out the soloing midway through Dark foncé (sul' sofa)”, it's super good. They'll play their last gig next week (September 23rd) and I'll try to attend!

Free download of Post-Sauce on Bandcamp

Basil Oussaint – Agile (2015)
This dude really managed to get me out of my comfort zone (outside of showcasing the best local music, this is certainly one of the purposes of this series) with this album. Agile, his sixth release overall, is a joyful and eccletic blend of pop, world music, electronic, house and synthpop and it's extraordinarly catchy. It's super sexy, the beats are awesome and his vocals and lyrics (all in French) are super attractive and corny in the best way possible. Basil has basically no internet presence outside of this Bandcamp page but fans of the great Philippe Katerine's most out there material will dig this record. Bonus point for having a cat on the cover art!

Free download on Bandcamp
Golden Python – Matt Damon vs. The World (2014)
Since I saw Team America in the theaters (damn, this was more than 10 years ago), the
“MATT DAMON” joke has always been one of my favorite running gags so the title of this album by Golden Python got my attention. Their first EP is a fantastic experimental indie rock record with some math rock and screamo influences with fucked up lyrics. I was reminded of Modest Mouse a little mostly because of their unorthodox musicality and weird poetry. There's almost a video game music influence here but it's all played with the traditional rock instruments, the guitars are really playing these complex and strange melodies (check out “Flat Tree / Fat Tone”). Highly recommended for those who think indie rock is boring, this is far from being mundane.

Buy the EP on their Bandcamp

Growing Pains – Mood (2015)
Released back in June, this EP is simply a stunning piece of grungy power pop/punk/alternative rock and I can't get enough of it. It's very 90s and has the same mournful but uplifiting feel early Weezer had. It's all about being concise and punchy unlike some of the more intellectual and atmospheric picks of this Volume. I really like the four short pieces on “Mood”, especially the softer one “Paradox”. I want more of this! It's sweet nostalgic music, it's accesible, melodic but has enough power in the riffs to not be a sacharrine affair devoid of intellectual integrity like most of the mainstream pop punk projects.

Live with Pluum (featured on Volume 1.0), Golden Python and 2 other bands soon @Turbo Haus

Free download on Bandcamp

Friday, 18 September 2015

Local Sounds: Volume 1.0

Here's the first volume of a series highlighting the best non metal music of Montréal, Ottawa, the province of Québec, the province of Ontario and their surroundings has to offer (hardcore, rock, punk, post rock and more). All of today's picks are free downloads (or pay what you can) on Bandcamp so there's no reasons not to support and listen to these great bands.

She Serpent – She Serpent (2015)

This Montreal quartet formed in 2014 and released their first extended play in February of this year and it's superb. The four songs release is full of heavy bass licks and thunderous guitar riffs evocating the coldness of 80s post punk, the psychedelic/kraut repetiveness of Loop and the modern contributions of Interpol, Savages or even Bosnian Rainbows. The vocals of Melanie Brenda are the highlight here, they're powerful, entrancing and possess this sort of androgynous quality befitting of the post punk style. A super great discovery, I must see this band live!

Pluum – Pluum (2015)

Pluum (based on the word "plum", a tasty fruit) released their first EP in July and it's a pretty damn cool piece of music. Influenced by the likes of At the Drive-In, it's emotional post hardcore with some clear atmospheric and shoegaze moments. The vocals of Xavier are purely in the harsh screamo territories and it creates a sort of dichotomy when confronted with the clean guitars.The three songs are short, packed with a lot of energy and diversity and never boring. It's heavy (listen to “Monday”) but it's always quite beautiful and has these pleasing lush melodies. A very mature first effort from these guys.

Durs Coeurs – Durs Coeurs (2015)

From Ottawa, this punk rock band formed by Patrick Pageau (the ex drummer of doomsters Cauchemar and the guitarist of the now defunct trashers of Bastardator), Durs Coeurs is frankly awesome. Even though they're the only band not from Quebec featured here, they're the sole one with French lyrics and that's pretty cool.I'm not a big conoisseur of punk but I dig their old school approach, there's also plenty of rock & roll in Durs Coeurs (hard hearts) and I freaking love the guitar tone of Pat. The vocals are manly and the lyrics are simple, well written and downright fun to sing. If you like the poppy, super fast and melodic punk of Ramones, you'll like this demo a lot. Dan Lee, the drummer of the black/thrash band Occult Burial and heavy metallers Iron Dogs drums on this and the speed he brings certainly fits their sound. Highly recommended, I just can't stop listening to this.

Angles - Lysergic Eucharist (2015)
Formed by Sean Arsenian of The Great Sabbathini (sludge), the leader of Animal Ethics (punk/hardcore/noise) and the drummer of IRN (sludge/doom), Angles is somewhat of a Montreal super band and their first release certainly proves that their collaboration is one of quality. The six minutes release is a mix of powerviolence, non metallic grindcore, some doom (the closer "Brautigan's Gun") with some sort of psychedelic/spacey vibe that's covering the whole thing (just look at the three eyed undead Jesus on the cover to have a visual summary of that). It's nasty, fast as fuck but it's not savage, it's intelligent and nowhere near sloppy. It reminds me of Kylesa but mixed with the impressive power of Nails. Bonus points for their great song titles like “Tampons In September” or “Alcoholic Cousins”. I feel bad for missing their first gigs, I'm sure it's something special!

Wolfshead – Caput Lupinum (2015) / 85%

Tête de loup

Fall of the Idols are definitely one of the most underrated doom bands in the world and they've been on a sort of hiatus since their last album released in 2012 and after the death of one of their members. They promised to release one last album though and I'm sure it will be quite good. In the meantime, we're served with the first extended play (after two demos) of a newer project with one of the founding members of FotI, the bassist Vesa Karppinen. One of the two composers of the album alongside Torture Pulse's (death metal) frontman Ari Rajaniemi (guitars), Vesa penned the title track of the album alone (Caput Lupinum means wolf's head, I felt like a noob when I used Google to translate that) but the three other songs were collaborative efforts.

Wolfshead, unlike Fall of the Idols, is bombastic and harsh heavy/doom and it doesn't take (or lose) its time with longer songs and while the closer “A Shadow in the Rain (London 1888)” is almost seven minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome at all and remains a concise affair. They remind me of Serpent Warning's (they played with them in their native country, so far away from me unfortunately!) groovier and shorter tracks (their debut album released last year is excellent) or Grand Magus's pulverising riffs. The four tracks release has plenty of riffs and you can definitely feel the influences of fast paced doomsters Pentagram or the bluesy might of Motorhead in there. The vocals of Tero Laine are sung cleanly but they possess this harsh quality not dissimilar from a Lemmy turned doom. Tracks like “Leave Me Burnin'” are tons of funs with a sort of NWOBHM feel and proves that the band can write compelling and varied songs without losing their focus. I feel they have everything that's necessary to release a strong full length album. All their riffs are good, their production is solid and rock hard, their theme and aesthetic are well developed and their vocals are distinctive and original.

With Caput Lupinum, the quartet wrote a pretty impressive EP with strong emotional, catchy and heavy songs and they show all their different sides with it. Also, be sure to check out the other band of Wolfshead's guitarist, the excellent and more adventurous Deep River Acolytes, they're also worthy of your time and money. Oh and it's really hard to draw realistic boobs, the artist unfortunatlely failed the task!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Leeches of Lore – Motel of Infinity (2015) / 95%

Room service is here and it's freaking delicious

One of the oddest bands in America but also one of the most interesting and talented is back with their fourth full length after a short hiatus and I couldn't be more pleased. They once again released a masterpiece and it's a shame that this band isn't widely acclaimed. The New Mexico trio led by Steve Hammond (guitar, vocals) has always been a peculiar beast and a superbly varied affair. They're an extraterrestrial being who's not afraid of experimenting and breaking the boundaries of music's apparent limitations. From fast paced and thrashy heavy metal to noise rock, drone (their Giant Sloth extended play) and Western, these guys can play anything while never being totally confused of confusing. They could be compared to Melvins, the godfathers of weirdness in terms of vision and and for their numerous genre jumping jacks. They also really love the Washington state band, Hammond covered some of their tracks on his solo releases and they got the help of longtime Melvins producer and guest musician Toshi Kasai (who also plays additional instruments on this record) to produce and record Motel of Infinity. This dude definitely gave them their best production yet

Starting with the first thing I've noticed: the cover art, I think it's a good representation of the spirit of Leeches of Lore, an old cheap motel with a view on a clear and beautiful sky. I think it's an analogy to the humble identity of the band while explaining their grand vision. I probably like it because it reminds me of the album Motel Capri by the popular Quebecois folk/rock band Les Cowboys Fringants. Anyhow, like the epic cover of their previous record, this more down to earth artistic approach fits the festive, at times summery album.

LoL (best acronym ever?) surprised us (me, at least) with a country EP in late July. I instantly shared it to my father who's a big Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings fan and he totally liked it. This shows that they're an authentic group of musicians who are as ecclectic as much as the United States is cosmopolitan. I wasn't sure of what to expect with this new full length as Frenzy, Ecstasy was some sort of transition effort (this doesn't mean that it's not a masterpiece, I gave it a 98% three years ago and this score is still adequate) after their first two lps which were generally much heavier or more metallic (listen to “I am the Raptor” from their self titled). Their third album was heavy but in a noise way and the spaghetti western side of the band was deeply explored. I think the western side of the band has been diluted for Motel, there's some sort of surf rock feel that is now more prevalent and while there's some metal moments like “Don't Open till Doomsday”, a track that reminded me of Faith No More's Angel Dust, it doesn't seem like a totally metal album, it's instead all over the place but in a cohesive way. It's a more controlled sort of craziness than your usual Mike Patton project.

The omnipresence of Noah Wolter's keyboards (rhodes, etc.) is giving a sort of The Doors/Deep Purple vibe but played in Area 51 since it's totally bonkers. There's no bass guitars so the rhythm section consists of the proficient and interesting drums of Andy Lutz and the keys. It's almost as strong as the Manzarek/Densmore duo! Their musicianship is impressive in its ability to navigate many styles without breaking a sweat, they're excellent musicians in complete control of their direction.

I like the fact they rerecorded “White Debbie” (found on
Attack the Future), it's much shorter and feels like a more joyful and softer version. There's also “The Olm” originally on Hammond's experimental album Canclo and it's the only long track on there with its six minutes length, the track has this sort of drone/doom/ambient part before exploding into their bombastic style. Most songs on Motel are short bursts of creativity (many are around the two minutes mark) but they're so rich with details that the relatively brief duration of the album is inconsequential, I'll only press the repeat button since I doubt I'll get tired of it. While the songs are shorter overall than on Frenzy, Ecstasy, it's perhaps not as instantly memorable, it takes a lot of tie to dissect all the organs but it's truly rewarding.

Leeches of Lore is a persevering band but you need to make some effort in order to decipher all the artefacts they buried underneath their inventive blend of music. They're adventurous not only because they mix genres that are rarely or even never combined together (speed metal + western, anyone?). LoL has once again wrote a masterful album and took the lead for “best album of 2015” as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Initiated - Seed of Evil (2015) / 80%

Uncle Danzig will be proud.

Can you see the evil in his eyes?!

Sometimes it's fun to go back to the basics and that's exactly what these guys did with this new project. Formed by members of several Finnish metal bands from diverse genres such as Horse Latitudes (droney doom), Caskets Open (trad doom/punk) or Speedtrap (thrash), Initiated is a retro band and it feels like a vacation for these guys. The main worship object on their altar is none other than
Danzig and that's certainly a rare thing in the metal world. While I'm not the biggest fan of the man, I do think his self titled debut is a pristine work but this EP is better than anything he did since at least two decades.

Feel the touch of the golden hand! Ugh!

It has this dark, occult feel (just look at the subtle yet dreadful cover art) but it's in possession of a clear, admittedly joyful spirit leading me to believe that the thematic isn't overly “serious” but rather present to represent their tongue-in-cheek nature, dark humor is something quite present in Finland's snowy lands. Probably to give the necessary confidence to withstand their depressive Winters.

It's played big with memorable over the top choruses full of Jim Morrison's shirtless dead
demeanour,, Harri Kuokkanen (drums, vox in Horse Latitudes) is a force to reckon with here, his vocals (armed with the distinctive Finnish accent) are powerful and enjoyable. From the chanting in “Summoning” to the memorable sexy tomgabrielwarrior-esque “ughs” often found in their songs, he's just very charismatic and it transpires through the microphone.

Pass me the goblet of your desires, let me fill all your cups, they shall overflow.

The music is a mix of heavy metal, hard rock and doom metal, it's quite melodic and really has this crossover feel between all these different genres. It's just very fun stuff with super cool riffs that are the true opposite of subtlety (that's a good thing!) but they can deliver some atmospheric (and sleazy) moments like on “Goblet” and its great lead guitar work.

They're not reinventing the wheel but that's the main purpose of this project, it was created as an outlet to deliver the traditional goods and that's exactly what they did. Complaining about this fact would be like complaining about how your typical cheeseburger doesn't taste like foie gras. It's thick, full of riffs, it reeks of sex and it's rightfully occult, Initiated possess all the elements necessary to craft a superb piece of hot music.