Metal Music Reviews from siLLy puPPy

THE ELYSIAN FIELDS Adelain

Album · 1995 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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While the Scandinavian second wave of black metal was in its full glory, the lesser areas of Europe were busy gestating their own version of musical misanthropy in the form of extreme metal ranging from the death and doom dirges of maximum distortion to the blackened pits of fiery hellish metal that served as the soundtrack for Hades. Eastern European black metal bands may have been few in number in comparison to their northern neighbors but nonetheless some persistent aficionados of the style churned out some memorable albums. Greece has never really been on the forefront of any musical movement perhaps since the homegrown folk styles such as rebetika, however lurking in the shadows arose a few well known extreme metal bands such as Septicflesh and Rotting Christ. One of the lesser known but no less worthy of recommendations were THE ELYSIAN FIELDS who may have taken their namesake from the conception of the afterlife in Greek religious philosophies but were very much a part of the here and now of the 90s when they released their debut album ADELAIN in 1994 after a couple of attention getting demos.

THE ELYSIAN FIELDS created one of the most unique forms of melodic black metal in the 90s despite sounding somewhat familiar in comparison to its Hellenic counterparts of the scene but yet somehow drifted into its own unique arenas that took disparate sounds and made them their own. The band very much developed their sound in conjunct with bands such as Rotting Christ and Varathron but somehow fell off the radar while the others rose to the ascending throne of the world’s attentive ears. THE ELYSIAN FIELDS gained a loyal following in the early 90s as they released a few demos and demonstrated a unique interpretation of the black metal scene. Dominated by heavy aggressive guitar riffs and blastbeats that offer a backdrop for the angry raspy vocals to lash out against, this melodic black metal band’s sound was actually centered around a melodic keyboard riff that served as the anchor for the full fueled fury to dance around. In this regard THE ELYSIAN FIELDS took the same approach as the Ukrainian band Nokturnal Mortem did on their debut demo turned EP “Lunar Poetry” which uses a simple melodic hook on the keys to generate a never ending stream of aggressive riff changes and second wave black metal fury.

Also unique to the band were its exemplary ability to utilize aspects of death, gothic and doom metal in their musical cauldron to create a larger than life experience that mixed the typical blackened metal aggression with piano laden spoken word segments and more moody slower parts that created a unique contrast. At times during the slower parts the band can bring a doom metal band like My Dying Bride to mind but during the heavier parts the vocalist known only as “Bill A” is a dead ringer for Sakis Tolis of fellow Greek band Rotting Christ as do their crunchy guitar riff attacks mimic periodically throughout the album. THE ELYSIAN FIELDS also had a knack for a poetic prowess like few others of the day and created a more epic feel with their lyrics rather than simply blasphemous or misanthropic passages. Having been well steeped in the traditions of the Ancient Greek mythologies, this band utilized their exposure to these hidden worlds quite effectively and likewise utilized the proper mood setting musical principles to amplify their power. While the following album “We.. The Enlightened” expanded the overall sound manyfold, ADELAIN remains a typical melodic black metal 90s album that while not quite as frenetic as what Emperor or Cradle of Filth were pulling off back then, maintained a heavy sound with only certain moments where the full speed of their fury was uncaged.

THE ELYSIAN FIELDS remains one of the forgotten obscure Hellenic black metal bands that has fallen through the cracks to the point of true obscurity but more than deserves a resurrection from the vaults as the band crafted some excellent melodic black metal with death, doom and gothic touches. The piano and keyboard accompaniments are purely evil in their minor key hauntings and usher in the perfect storm of extreme metal savagery with devilish guitar distortion that alternate between tremolo picking and doomy sustained chords that linger on to infinity. This is an excellent taste of extreme Greek metal from the 90s and in my opinion much more sophisticated than what Rotting Christ was cranking out at the time with their early releases. THE ELYSIAN FIELDS knew just how to craft their compositions with the proper ingredients to create something not too far removed from the overall second wave black metal scene but yet with enough touches to make it sound totally original at the same time. Highly recommended.

INSIDE THE SOUND Wizard's Eyes

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.05 | 2 ratings
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Although the Ukrainian band INSIDE THE SOUND began merely as a side project of guitarist / keyboardist Max Velychko (most notably from Modern Rock Ensemble as well as Karfagen, Sunchild and Hoggwash) and bassist Dmitry Trifonov while working on other projects, the promise of fusing all the love of their disparate genres of music proved too tempting not to engage in a fully realized development of the band’s potential. While sort of put on the shelf for a few years with only sporadic recordings emerging, they found enough quality material to release a debut titled “Time Z” in 2010. What may have seemed like a one shot release as the years slowly sputtered by, it turns out that Velychko and Trifonov were simply taking their sweet time to carefully craft the perfecting qualities that took the template laid out on “Time Z” and further expand into unthinkable arenas. The result is that finally in the year 2017, INSIDE THE SOUND has finally released the second long awaited album in the form of WIZARD’S EYES and although i wasn’t aware of this band at the time of their debut, i have to say that for fan’s who were holding their breath for a new release can finally exhale and take in an exhilarating new inhalation of some of the most pleasing progressive symphonic prog meets metal i’ve encountered in a while.

While “Time Z” laid down the foundations of an Allan Holdsworth type of instrumental progressive rock sound complete with heavy rocking guitar laced with jazz-fusion compositional styles, WIZARD’S EYES takes everything that came before and perfects them and then adds a plethora of new ideas and sounds to the mix. The core trio remains the same with Velychko performing exquisite guitar workouts and atmospheric keyboard nuances while Dmitry Trifonov returns for bass duties as does Max Didenko on drums. New to the band is Dmitry Yeryomin who contributes an expanded role on the keyboards and adds a whole new layer of intensity to the band’s symphonic and atmospheric touches that the debut album only hinted upon. Also new to the band’s sound is the inclusion of four guest musicians, each offering a unique stamp on the band’s already established and accomplished sound. The biggest contributors are Indranila who adds his Indo-raga charms on acoustic sitar and Vedic chanting as well as Nila Goal who supplies a nice touch of tabla that is interspersed judiciously throughout the album. The track “Friends” receives the royal treatment with two more guests in the form of Antony Kalugin on extra keys and Daniel Ilyin on electric violin. The combo effect of all these musicians in tandem creates some of the most divinely pleasing melodic progressive metal that while does include some steaming hot metal outbursts, more often than not tends to merely simmer in progressive rock stews.

While the album is touted as a prog metal journey into instrumental fantasy worlds of epic proportions, WIZARD’S EYES is far more varied and magical than that mere title insinuates. Graced with superior production techniques and intricate compositional flows, the album begins quite nicely with an almost soundtrack type of orchestration that slowly but surely ratchets up the the drive and intensity that finally erupts into a more heightened tension as it bursts into a heavier form of rock with great care paid to every detail. The opening track “Intro: A Secret Journey” truly sounds like a jazz-fusion project of the great Allan Holdsworth only on a higher energy level with a Steve Vai sort of prog metal infusion that at times reminds me of some of the more adventurous antics on his “Passion and Warfare” album. While the jazz meets metal thing is the underpinning of it all, the music is laced with intricate symphonic polyrhythms and counterpoints that add smooth atmospheric suavity to the metallic guitar riffs and jarring time signature workouts. “Dreaming Deja Vue” ratchets up these very attributes of the music with exquisite instrumental interchanges and driving dynamic shifts. “Fantasia” is more of a jazzy ballad with sensual piano lines providing the melodic underpinning while the guitar solos are the most reminiscent of Vai on the album.

“Friends” is a quirky number that provides a smooth jazz sort of feel that veers off into more spacey territory and delivers outstanding key and violin solos. “Empire V” reveals a subdued influence of Eastern European folk music as the melodic developments hint of the virtuoso guitar compositions of Serbia’s Borislav Mitic however Velychko displays some of his most creative guitar soloing on this track that successfully creates a lighter than a feather weightlessness to the sound. “Haribol” is the most exotic sounding track with the inclusion of the sitar and Vedic chanting that offer a taste of musical curry and naan. “Horizon” delivers yet another midrange rocker while the title track provides the album’s most scorching hot metal track complete with rapid fire guitar riffing and percussive overdrive as well as interesting counterpoints delivered by the exotic flair of the keyboard approaches. It also offers some of the most intense progressive time signature workouts making it one of the most daring tracks to be heard. For me the weaker tracks on the album arise at the end as “To The Sky,” “Outro” and “The Cold Spring (which is considered a bonus track) seem to run on auto pilot where the album needs to go out on a bang but instead finds a comfort zone.

INSIDE THE SOUND has crafted a beautifully manufactured product on WIZARD’S EYES that displays all the details and loving touches that all the years of creation incur. The musicians are of top calibre and meld their respective talents together in a seamless fashion with strong compositions to boot. The production is crystal clear and offers a plethora of subtle touches that make blasting this on full decibelage a true delight. While this is almost a perfect product for me as a huge lover of both Allan Holdsworth and Steve Vai, i have to admit that sometimes the influences are a wee bit too strong in their direction despite the compositions maintaining a fierce independence streak that gives the album a unique charisma. Overall an impressive sophomore offering from the Ukraine with only a few tracks at the end fizzling out the excitement of hearing these dedicated musicians hard at work. WIZARD’S EYES is indeed a magnificent display of intricate musicianship that shows a true depth in musical tastes. The term progressive metal will surely be misleading because while the progressive term remains a constant throughout the album’s 51 minute and 44 second run, the metal part does not partake as much with the majority of the album falling somewhere in the orchestrated ambient rock universe with the metal riffing and soloing only emerging part time. While personally i would prefer a few more heavy hitting numbers, i have to admit that the skills displayed on this album make me think of what i wanted the Liquid Tension Experiment albums to sound like because the care and scrutiny of every detail is impressive indeed. A worthy and heavier companion piece to the Modern Rock Ensemble project. Excellent.

BUCKETHEAD In Search of The

Album · 2007 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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My longest review EVER!!! I deserve a puppy treat for this one ʕ•́ᴥ•̀ʔ !!!

Anyone familiar with BUCKETHEAD will already be fully aware of how prolific his output is. In the early days it may not have been as obvious because of the fact that many of his projects weren’t under his own name and instead fell under pseudonyms such as Death Cube K or as collaborative efforts with Brain, Travis Dickerson, Jonas Hellborg, Viggo Mortensen, Cobra Strike, Cornbugs, Deli Creeps, El Stew, Giant Robot, Praxis and many, many more! Throughout the early naughts, BUCKETHEAD had steadily been shifting to create more music under his own moniker and in 2007 he finally went for broke by releasing a huge boxed set which was only the first of many solo and collaborative releases of 2007.

IN SEARCH OF THE is a behemoth of a musical marathon with a staggering 13 albums in total and was placed into a new category called a “special release.” This was also an attempt to create some of the most direct artist to fan projects possible as every single edition consisted of hand burned CDs with spontaneous artistic doodles as album covers created by BUCKETHEAD himself therefore no two sets were alike. In hindsight this ambitious effort would prognosticate the never ending Pike series and could possible be deemed as a proto-Pike set of sort for it has a similar vastness in scope. On this one there are a total of 92 tracks with the shortest being only 33 seconds and the longest 45 minutes and 1 second.

The project is quite clever as each CD is titled a letter of the title IN SEARCH OF THE and collectively clocks in at a whopping 9 hours 27 minutes and 37 seconds however believe it or not it all actually began as a much more ambitious endeavor. It was supposed to be a massive undertaking consisting of 30 CDs that spelled out IN SEARCH OF THE DISEMBODIED SOUNDS…….. :OMG! As fate would have it, the project proved to be too taxing for even the indefatigable chicken lover as his popularity rose and even his robot dance moves couldn’t generate enough to please a rabidly hungry fan base. Luckily this was trimmed down but it’s still a super massive blackhole of attention sucking life energy to get through it :P

Only somewhere around 1000 copies were actually made so this is another case of YouTube being your best friend (unless you were lucky enough to find a set) if you even dare to tread on these grounds because admittedly this set is not for the feint of heart! All discs have untitled tracks with Volume 11 hosting the most (11) whereas Volume 13 (E) contains the least (1). The music varies as much as BUCKETHEAD’s vast musical arsenal in his special place in his own musical universe. There are no credits given so whether every instrument was played by BUCKETHEAD or if other artists contributed remains a mystery.

Although all tracks are officially untitled, some hardcore fans have decided that tracks without titles were unacceptable and needed some serious spicing up so they created their own project of naming every single one of the 92 compositions. Amazingly all of these titles fit the bill fairly well that presumably would even delight the chicken loving creator. Here is a list of all the volumes with all the tracks including the unofficial default names that have adopted by all chickens big and small. This means that both Jersey Giants and Belgian D’Anvers can effortlessly refer to their favorite chicken dances in perfect gallus gallus domesticus harmony!

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I: 44:19 (Volume 1)

Track 1 (0:54) “Sonic Slaughter” is a strange horrific ambient intro with screaming guitar

Track 2 (14:51) “Pollywogs Dancing On A Quilt Of Faces” is the longest track and begins with a funk bass line and clean guitar with wah-wah. The tones are clean, warm and friendly and it only sputters along at a mid-tempo pace. After three minutes the guitar gets brave and starts soloing. After several minutes the bass line remains the same but the guitar gets more jittery and erupts into bluesy solos that range from appropriately tasteful to full on dissonant space metal. Nice track but outstays its welcome.

Track 3 (2:58) “ Jengamoose” completely changes things up with a medieval guitar intro before jumping into a drumbeat with an electronic swirling haze like something off an early Hawkwind album. Then it gets weird. A guitar and different types of percussion battle it out as the ambience swirls on in the background. Halfway through it becomes a Joe Pass type of jazz guitar with lo-fi drumbeats and some sort of metal pan type of percussion. More happens in this short tracks than the over long second one.

Track 4 (2:31) “Appenzel Pointed Hood Hen” has a canned monotonous drum machine beat with an avant-garde guitar dissonantly (and out of tune) trying to create some sort of melody with a bop jazz bass. In the middle it just breaks down into a bunch of electronic sounds with a random guitar guitar plucked.

Track 5 (0:41) “Trail Of Misconception” begins with beautiful chimes and a symphonic sounding synthesizer melody which builds up even more counterpoints but is short and an intro for next track.

Track 6 (15:02) “Sourced Autonomy” is the longest track and starts hard and heavy with a heavily distorted grungy guitar with all kinds of freaky effects. The drums and bass are heavy while the guitar just goes nuts from the get go. The riff is super heavy and fast with a distorted wah-wah type of effect and the soloing is frenetic and crazed. Despite the length of this track the energy level remains on full flame with incessant whizzing up and down the guitar scales while down-tuned riffing chugs away beneath the high pitched sizzling solos. Close to the six minute mark some jittery electronica joins in as the guitar soloing gets absolutely crazier and even faster. After a while the electronica turns into a funky riff while the guitar remains on overdrive and after a while the soloing becomes stranger but never lets up for a second. Whew! This is probably the loooooooongest uninterrupted guitar solo i’ve ever heard and the energy level remains intense for the 15 minute duration. My fingers are bleeding just listening to this :o

Track 7 (1:44) “Transmission Miscommunication” is a freaky little electronica number with pulsating electro weirdness. Sounds more like some weird 50s electronic pioneer but strange processed guitar parts come bleeding through and they screeeeeeaaaaaammm!

Track 8 (5:33) “Angiobanjiplasti” sounds more like an 80s Legendary Pink Dots type of psychedelic track with electronic drums and strange freaky keyboard runs. Chimes join in so does weird electronic noises. It keeps a steady beat but then breaks down totally and avant-garde keyboard runs tinkle away while a buzzing thing hovers in the forefront and then a steady drumbeat and funky keyboard run joins in followed by a weird processed guitar. The funky keyboard starts “talking” and then everything cuts out and a wind chime type of sound sets in with an ambient background which goes on for a while and fades out. Www-eee-i-rrrrr-ddd ! ! !

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N: 44:49 (Volume 2)

Track 1 (1:26) “Pullets On Parade (Million Chicken March)” is a little synthesized keyboard anthemic march with weird timings and a cool guitar solo

Track 2 (10:49) “Flying Finger Fury (In The Coop)” is a bass-heavy funk rock extravaganza with some serious Hendrix finger channeling mojo wanking out in wild and woolly wah-wah mode. While the funk never ends and churns out over the ten minute mark, the guitar noodles around bit and conjures up some coolness in the mix however perhaps a bit too long of a track despite keepin’ a serious groove

Track 3 (2:58) “Hanged Man's Lament” begins with the peal of a bell and a slow creepy organ and then turns into a drum trade off that is sort of a military march only staccato style meaning a drum roll trades off with silence. Interesting but feels like an incomplete interlude

Track 4 (2:09) “Robot Foot Pursuit” is a bouncy and funkified number that starts off with lightning quick funk bass, drum machines and eventually adds some avant-guitar rhythms. Reminds me of some of the DJ electronica mixed with funk on “Somewhere Over The Slaughterhouse”

Track 5 (15:49) “Blue Marbles Moon” is a more relaxed number with mid-tempo groovy bass with a peppy keyboard riff and a clean guitar melody mixin’ it up. As the longest track swallowing up two thirds of the real estate, this one really takes its sweet time escalating any kind of tension. It is fairly repetitive with a monotonous funky vibe, recurring peppy keys and guitars adding some much needed flavor. Needless to say, despite being well produced and a pleasant listen still carries on a wee bit too long however it’s easy to hear a lot of future Pikes on this one, yep, my least favorite kinds that just loop to infinity

Track 6 (3:18) “Droid Factory Conveyor Belt Ambush” begins another “Somewhere Over The Slaughterhouse” type track with a DJ electronica beat with electronic weirdness but quickly adds a slower ambient counterpoint that sounds like a totally separate sort of epic soundtrack beneath. The DJ beat drops in and out and seems totally out of sync. Some tinkly pianos add another of weirdness. I love the juxtaposing forces on this one. It shouldn’t work but it does

Track 7 (6:04) “The Beheaded” is another funky number but a weirder one. It has funky guitar playing over a rather chaotic stream of noise churned out by frenetic drums. It then gets wild with the guitar being played backwards. There’s a pulse of rhythm that tries to keep it all cohesive but it really just gets freekin’ weird really. The funk guitar makes a reprise at the end while the noises hiss in the background but ultimately gets extremely experimental again before gaining control at the end

Track 8 (2:16) “Memories Of Forgotten Dreams” is a creepy dark ambient track with all kinds of mentally scarring noises going for the jugular for panic mode. Avant-garde and angular rhythms dual it out with jarring synthesized horror film soundtrack type ambience. Subdued screams and muffled electronic “pig oinks” add to the extremely bizarre effects which end this second volume in a very www-eee-i-rrrrr-ddd way

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S: 43:27 (Volume 3)

Track 1 (14:51) “Funkaslunk” is as funkadelic as the name suggests with a super slappin’ bass line that even George Clinton would approve of! This starts off as basically a bass line that slaps on in complexity with a rather hollow disco beat and while the beat remains steady, BH gets more weirded out on the bass lines doing all kinds of funky acrobatics. Around the six minute mark the bass is replaced by guitar (i assume, at least it sounds like it) does some freaky stuff and then back to the bass getting weirder and weirder. Around the eight minute mark the repetitive percussion picks up a few beats per minute. Around nine minutes it becomes distorted into weird effects and alternates with the slap bass. After swallowing up a third of this disc it just abruptly ends. Could’ve been trimmed down about five minutes but was actually pretty good!

Track 2 (2:16) “Down A Darkened Hallway” creates a stark contrast with strange dark ambient ethereal synthesized sounds, some sort of dark chime sounds and finally some jazzy drumming as it all fades out. Strange growls appear and echo and then weird electronica makes jarring percussive attacks along with other strange sounds

Track 3 (3:48) “Slow Shifting Highway / Memories Of Forgotten Dreams” is completely different again with super spacey echoed guitar parts that slowly turn into a rather funky rock type of track. Sounds very 70s with semi-distorted guitars providing a simple riff with a strong drum and bass behind them. It alternates with the echoey space intro. Nice melody and nice track all the way around

Track 4 (7:32) “A Dead Brains Pulse” has a super bass riff, the kind you hear in hip hop with all the subwoofers shaking their sheet. While the deep bass bounces on theres a bass guitar doing weird things and a guitar part in the background doing weird guitar things like strange scales, licks and slides. Gets a funky bass added at the end. Cool track but a little too long

Track 5 (4:24) “Listening Device” continues the deep bass effects but adds a dark ambient electronic effect around it. This one is much more surreal and then a sizzling guitar whizzes by at a million miles and hour not doing any type of musical scales but simply buzzing like an insect. A keyboard seems to be talking while the heartbeat type of bass rhythms blasts the subwoofers. As it all ends a strange rumbling occurs while the guitar and electronica just freak out totally. It gains in intensity, takes little breaks and then the boombox bass comes back. This is one strange number

Track 6 (10:31) “Wormhole Collapse” is not really a surprise when it starts off in funk mode! Funky synthesizers that sort of slide in and out of tune sounding like a funk concert on some sort of mind altering substance. The drums sound real and not electronic. There is an alternation between the synth funk and the guitar lines. A deep bass line also reverberates a funky riff. As the track progresses, the bass riffs get more daring and acrobatic. I don’t know how BH can get so much out of a simple funk riff but manages to do so on this one :o

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E: 42:30 (Volume 4)

Track 1 (3:20) “Raging Nugget” is actually a funky nugget with a funkified synth line playing with the bass and a nice cool cat drumbeat. It remains in funk mode and ends with a nice guitar solo.

Track 2 (7:07) “The Machines Shall Remain” is very strange. Kind of jingling chimes, a tinny “talking” synth riff, different percussion. This is utterly alien and sounds more like a soundtrack for a cartoon or something. The keys remain melodic for a while but then it turns into a kind of jungle tribe percussion call with the processed guitar slinking and sliding all over the fucking place! It ends with noise. Wow! This is perhaps one of the absolute coolest tracks i’ve ever heard from BH. Utterly bizarre, alienating and mind-blowing :o

Track 3 (9:02) “Milk Plus Synthemesc” has a “normal” drumbeat but the bass and guitar are playing totally weird counterpoints. The bass is lower than normal while the guitar sounds slightly out of tune. The bass line remains constant while the guitar gets to freak out in totally wild ways before becoming somewhat funkified. It’s actually pretty cool how the bass slowly ratchets up the funk-o-meter while the guitar just goes plain fucking nuts at times. It becomes a frenetic lightning bolt that whizzes by at a million miles per second. Whoah!

Track 4 (3:29) “1984 Beat-Bumpin' (Tribute To Darren Robinson)” is as the title suggests. A big fat boom box beat however it’s accompanied by an unlikely counterpart. Some sort of folky keyboard run. The beat drops out and it becomes chaotic but then it picks back up again only more subdued. This one is sort of randomly strewn together.

Track 5 (5:21) “Domo-Kun's Nightmare” is a dark ambient equivalent of an emotional breakdown with dark synths sloshing around with random buzzing sounds. It never really goes anywhere. It sounds like globs of liquid dripping and then someone hitting pipes with a wrench or something and then like an underwater adventure.

Track 6 (3:29) “Silkie Bantam” is normal music, uh, for BH that is! This actually has a guitar, bass and drum set playing together. There is a melody, a rhythm and a rather bluesy feel. Unfortunately after all those wickedly cool tracks, this one seems rather mediocre. Nothing more than a little bluesy rock jam and nothing more.

Track 7 (3:58) “Ectoplasm Circus” is drums and…… well, more drums. Oh wait! Here comes a synthesizer. It’s sort of melodic but sounds like someone learning how to play. The drums are energetic at least. Finally some weird guitars, oh my…. this is getting waaaay strange. The drums have changed. Wow, everything has changed. This started out pretty lame but has become very, very, very, very, very weird. It ends with funk. I LOVE IT!!!!

Track 8 (6:39) “Visiting Rights” has a heavy bass drum beat with tinkling chimes that alternate with some sort of staticky sounds. Electronica whizzes in and out of the scene. Kinda sounds like chicken clucks. The bass drum is mostly consistent, the chimes intermittent but when they both drop out the electronic synth goes whacko and creates some sort of “alien” soloing. Very bizarre track on a extremely bizarre Volume of this massive CD set ;P

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A: 42:27 (Volume 5)

Track 1 (10:35) “Fractal Shadows” is a rather mellow rock number that has a spacey clean guitar mixed with bass and drums and is an indicator of many Pike tracks to follow. It’s a rather non-offensive little light number that takes a simple melody and chord progression and repeats with a little guitar variations along the way. Not a bad track by any means but doesn’t warrant a length of over ten minutes.

Track 2 (1:14) “Red Eye Spider Cloud” is as weird as the title sounds. Strange erratic percussion with some electronica chirping away around it. Totally experimental and bizarre.

Track 3 (4:48) “Liquid Tungsten Robot Factory” is an industrial noise track and it sounds like it could be machines talking to each other via electronica and a guitar line. Another totally out there wild child. A funk line somehow emerges from the din. Basically sounds like Coil plus an avant-garde guitar riff and electronic noodling.

Track 4 (10:11) “Bucketbot’s Bass Binge Buddy” is a more normal track with a super funky bass line and drum both playing at a slow tempo. Basically drums stay slow and bass shows off once in a while but stays funky. Not too much going on and definitely not interesting for over ten minutes.

Track 5 (5:00) “Atomic Butterfly” is a strange little synthpop type of number with a floaty keyboard riff fluttering around like a, well pretty bug that flies! It has intermittent breaks where it becomes ambient and then techno drumming gets down and dirty. A funky guitar with effects eventually does a little funky dance with it all while ambient keys frost the horizon. The track ultimately falls back to the synthpop riff that it started with.

Track 6 (1:40) “Sander’s Retort” is another funky number only the bass is kind of tinny and in mono while a drumbeat that sounds like someone plays a can commences. It then all stops and weird randomness occurs and then it picks up again. Short and pointless really.

Track 7 (1:58) “Percolates Jazz… The Last Drop” is also short but more interesting as it has an industrial percussive sound mixed with a series of clicks and a jazzy guitar wailing away. The tension is thick as the counterpoints are stark and freaky. A classical keyboard sort of plays along even though it’s in its own world.

Track 8 (2:54) “A Moment I Can Give” is a mellow little rocker that sounds a lot like the opening track. A melodic clean echoey guitar is joined by a bass and drum and all proceed at a nonchalant pace down a bluesy placid path to nowhere.

Track 9 (4:03) “Funeral Parlor” is a strange electronic reverberation to infinity as notes slowly repeat and slowly fade away. Not much happens. It’s just a series of notes that repeat the electronic reverb dance but it’s effective.

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R: 45:00 (Volume 6)

Track 1 (19:45) “Eye Of The Storm” is the behemoth of this disc swallowing up over half of its real estate. It begins with a steady drumbeat and a frenetically strange guitar riff that can’t make up its mind if it wants to make psychedelic weirdness or shred like a muthafucka. Spacey Hawkwind-like synth sweeps raise their pitches behind the guitar shredding which begins to dominate as the sizzling solo gets ever faster and faster. At ten minutes in the frenetic soloing is still going on with only minor breaks popping up with the spacey electro-ambience flowing along in the background. The drumbeat pretty much stays the same tempo even as the guitar gets more furiously fast. At eleven minutes a background synth line does create a more calming layer as the guitar quickens. After nearly twenty minutes of this, all i can say is ENOUGH! This track is totally monotonous. It proves BH’s ability to sustain shredding for long periods of time but this is not a very interesting track. The drumbeat is boring. The electronic parts are boring and even the shredding is just the same riff played over and over and over and over and over again. I love intelligent shredding but this is super-meh :(

Track 2 (3:42) “Unhinged Paradox” begins with a funk bass but then quickly changes into a dungeon synth type of industrial track but wait a cheerful piano enters but then disappears. Oh, i see. It’s one of those tracks where several different unrelated instrumental parts are played and then layered over each other but then sometimes they all play together. This is weird i say! It becomes more of a dungeon synth track after all that chaos settles. Dark synth runs and strange higher register synth parts as well. I’m lovin’ this one. Could be a Coil or Throbbing Gristle track.

Track 3 (4:30) “Last Light” goes the complete opposite direction and has a fluffy happy vibe. It’s a clean guitar with bass and drums and is mid-tempo rock with a slightly spacey effect. Melodic and peppy without being too energetic. Nice guitar parts. Not too different from what BH would recycle on many of the mellower Pike albums and this one works very well by balancing all the elements quite well.

Track 4 (1:11) “Dig Up From Underneath” conjures up a trip hop type of beat accompanied by a deep bass line and a jazzy guitar riff

Track 5 (15:46) “Amputee Shuffle” is the second longest track but for sure the best fan given name of these untitled tracks! It starts off with a funky bass and guitar with jazzy drum rolls. While this one is very much similar to the opening lengthy track, there is one fundamental difference. THIS ONE IS ACTUALLY INTERESTING! The drum rolls may not vary greatly but they are interesting even upon sustained repetition. The jazz guitar is cool and the varied nuances are exquisitely brilliant. The bass gets more hard bop style as it progresses and even becomes much more audible. More than half way through the bass becomes more melodic and less jazzy. It harmonizes notes and almost sounds like it’s singing. Despite the length this one is really cool as it morphs from jazz to blues towards the end. Love the bass as it becomes a chuggin’ force to be reckoned with.

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C: 41:13 (Volume 7)

Track 1 (2:58) “Grease On My New Shoes” starts out as a mid-tempo alternative rock type of track with jangly guitars, a prominent bass line and steady drumbeat. The guitars eventually add a more energetic riff and then turn into a more subdued sustained note bend type of lick. When the riff returns it’s more metal sounding with the distortion turned up.

Track 2 (16:40) “Solitary Psychosis” is the lengthy beast on this volume and swallows up a good third of the album. It begins with an erratic keyboard sound and is followed by a guitar that riffs and solos around the off-kilter time signature. After a while all stops and a solo freaks out but then turns back into the groovy rock. The synth line becomes more aggressive and weird and takes over the guitar. Some synthpop type riffs emerge as well. As it continues it gets stranger with the guitar performing bizarre acrobatics with a strange synth run bubbling away in the background. It sorta alternates with a more “normal” bluesy riff on speed but goes back to weird. The beat is fairly nonchalant and consistent as all the craziness unfolds over it but sometimes it’s left to just do it’s thing without any other instrumentation over it. This one goes on for a while but is actually quite cool. After a while i realize that the overall melodic underpinning is very much of carnival music with all the crazy stuff layered over it. It doesn’t become apparent until a keyboard part solos towards the end. This is a primo example of a lengthy track that is well worth existing!

Track 3 (4:14) “Flaming Pinãtas / Burnt Candy” is a synth funk track with electronic drums. Maybe something Herbie Hancock would have done on “Future Shock” even. Becomes more trip hoppy as it goes on with some backdrop guitar antics emerging.

Track 4 (4:20) “Tower Of Insanity” begins with bluesy rock guitar and somewhat antsy drums that really want to jam hard but the guitar wants to go no wave, dude! The drums say, your mama. I wanna jam MF! Guitars say in yer dreams farkface. Drums say i’ll do it my way thank you much. Guitars say i will hypnotize you into submission. Drums say bite me. Guitars say ok let me get the hot sauce. Drums say don’t mess with me bitch. Guitars say hmmm lemme think bout dat. Drums go ballistic and can’t hear guitar but guitar make meditation chord go vroooooom. No one lived happily ever after and everybody died.

Track 5 (1:52) “Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys” is woefully tuned down so low in volume that i can’t hear it! OK, this is obviously some sort of demo turned into a track. Basically jazz guitar that is on practice mode. It begins and stops. Quite boring and pointless to add this.

Track 6 (11:03) “Easter In The Batcave” begins with an ambience in the background that sounds like a storm brewing and some chimes tinkling along. Electronica whizzes in and out of the scene as well as guitar riffs. Very musique concrète as it rolls along. The different roles of instruments just sort of fade in and fade out. There is no percussive groove nor any melodic development, just sound collages that sort of gel together and then fall apart. Eventually the guitar gains enough steam to perform some totally weird string gymnastics that words cannot convey. Sort of has a funk groove but in an alternative universe. It almost sounds like the guitar is emulating R2D2’s robot language patterns from Star Wars in its sonic peaks and troughs but also goes through other totally strange acrobatics including normal riffing like Hendrix type blues rock that sort of spontaneously emerges and then turns weird again. It becomes more dramatic towards the end with symphonic classical additions popping in and the guitar getting more jittery and unpredictable. This track is fucking brilliant!

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H: 41:37 (Volume 8)

Track 1 (10:20) “Oishii” starts things off with a steady bass, choppy drum pattern and echoey clean guitar riff that creates a recurring melody. As it carries on the bass and drums gain a little speed and the riff changes things up a little every so often but basically this is a repetitive looped melody that carries on for way too long. Nice but not OMG

Track 2 (2:26) “The Orpington” starts things with an irregular house drumbeat and is followed by a blues guitar line that has some funk in it. The percussion goes haywire at a million miles an hour while the guitar remains unfazed in its nonchalant playing style. This is basically a little improv number that has no real purpose but gets really weird as it ends.

Track 3 (5:27) “A Day In The Park With Herbie” is completely different with a heavy bigbeat type drumming session with a drone type synth line in the background. It all changes and a funky bass enters the equation while the drums tame down a bit but still sound like something off of a hip hop album. It changes again and becomes some sort of nursery rhyme melody based in classical music with an obsequious drum behind it. This one is just weird really as it changes into a series of weird electronic noises, avant-garde guitar work and tinny percussion twangs but turns up to the same bigbeat mix that started it.

Track 4 (9:55) “Switch Way” is the second longest track and begins with a steady drumbeat and a synth funk reminiscent of “Head Hunter” era Herbie Hancock only a bit sped up. It deviates a bit from the funk by breaking into solos but pretty much continues the synth funk thang for the entire near ten minutes which is a bit too long.

Track 5 (2:30) “Treasure Section” has a strong trip hop type of groove but also has a jazzy horn (probably synthesized) along with quickly played staccato keys. Has a real catchy groove and is slightly hypnotic as it allows the jerky keys to relax so atmospheric ambience can flow in

Track 6 (0:33) “Wire Bop Pumpkin” is a super short drumbeat with jazz guitar

Track 7 (3:32) “Captain Kangaroo's Ether Hypnosis” is finally a track without percussion and is a weird electronic piece that has different sounds a sorta spooky riff that reverbs. It sounds like it’s in a trippy sound chamber where sound is bended. Sounds like a blueprint for the countdown to Halloween series of 2015.

Track 8 (4:36) “In Search Of The Bigeminy Junction” is another funk track although with a very lo-fi production. Percussion is rather tinny with a guitar that is trying to be jazzy with a funky beat to it. It becomes more avant-garde. The percussion is looped and remains the same while the guitar gets wild and woolly. Basically sounds like BH is practicing next a metronome really.

Track 9 (2:14) “Cybernetic Chickenheads & The Scavenger Slunk Run” is an avant-garde noisy little bugger. Strange guitar is subdued and sounds like an angry cat with an unrelated series of drum rolls. There is also hyperactive keyboards that just go crazy and drown everything else out. It devolves into noise and musical gibberish. Great way to end it all.

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O: 42:39 (Volume 9)

Track 1 (9:23) “Bullfrog” begins with an energetic drumroll and then is joined by a fuzzy funky bass line and a fuzzy distorted bluesy guitar riff. It repeats in a repetitive loop and over four minutes in the guitar starts soloing more recklessly while the bass and drums continue to robotically carry on in the same manner. This is basically a nine minute plus jam type of track and although it’s okay, it isn’t anything terribly exciting either not to mention too friggin’ long.

Track 2 (4:23) “Escher Relativity” has a very strange vibe as the given title implies. It is basically an energetic drumming pattern with a guitar intermittently cranking out some somewhat atonal riffs. The drumming sounds like a warmup to a further solo but continues the same and then suddenly it stops and everything changes. The drums become more subdued and a clean echoey guitar strums away for a while. While the guitar is very atmospheric and dreamy, the drums continue to crank it out as if existing in a different genre altogether although they are subdued as not to overtake the mellower aspects of the track.

Track 3 (5:18) “The Poison Hand” begins with “singing” synth notes that sound like a choral chant while electronic percussive sound bloop and bleep away. It abruptly changes into a steady mid-tempo drumbeat or sample maybe with improvised electronic keys tinkling away. Sounds like a rough draft of some initial idea. It then changes up the electronic drumbeat and key sounds again and keeps doing so every so often for the rest of the track. It’s eventually joined in by the guitar and becomes more “rock” like albeit experimental rock. Nothing lasts long on this one and it gets even weirder and more outlandish. I like this one. It’s highly dramatic and freaky.

Track 4 (16:52) “Robot Chicken” swallows up nearly half of this disc and sort of sounds like it continues where the last track left off. On this compilation BUCKETHEAD seems to love to engage in avant-funk rock tracks that last for a long period of time. This is yet another one of those with a steady drumbeat and what sounds like a keyboard that is distorted but it could be a processed guitar as well. Basically the drums stay steady while the melody carries on through variations. Actually it might be a guitar and keyboard alternating. Sometimes the melody changes into a familiar pop song like “Push It” by Salt N Pepa :o Overall this one is pretty cool in it’s experimental improvisational way but the running time certainly seems excessive. Actually it sounds a lot like the electronica vs metal experiments on “Somewhere Over The Slaughterhouse” except without the metal. That meaning the riffs sound recycled somewhat.

Track 5 (6:37) “Tunnel To The Light” thankfully changes things up. A distorted downtuned guitar riff crunchily creates a staccato riff while a keyboard performs acrobatics around it but nothing too wild at first but definitely in syncopation but then the floodgates open and it thinks it has joined Cirque du Soleil. The crunchy guitar only changes up occasionally while the high notes of the keys (or processed guitar) slink around like a downed power line in a mud puddle. This one has a strange impractical tension to it but becomes nice and “normal” at the end with the instruments playing nicely together. Pretty weird!

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F: 42:31 (Volume 10)

Track 1 (5:13) “Aldebaran Strikes Back” begins with a heavy trip hop type beat with epic horns backing it up and stuttering ghostly keyboards. Simulating the Star Wars experience a little as the background interacts with an epic melodic keyboard line. The drum remains steady and unchanging. After a couple minute a guitar solo erupts in a robotic way and fades in and out changing its dynamics.

Track 2 (9:35) “Down In It” is the longest track and follows in the footsteps of other monstrously long tunes on this massive release by gettin’ all funky on us again. While a funk bass prances around, the guitar is bluesy and distorted. After the proper introduction, the bass gets super fast as does the guitar and gets all aggressive on us. It backs off and goes back to the mid-tempo into style. There are also some of those cool Hendrix styled “the sky is crying” type of wah-wah guitar licks and some great feedback moments. Overall this one outstays its welcome as it doesn’t have enough variation to warrant its running time.

Track 3 (6:45) “The Ludovico Technique” is a very strange progressive electronic track with different synthesized sounds “talking” to each other. There is a deep bass drone and higher register riffs erratically tinkling away. A steady drumbeat joins in while a violin sound fills the spaces behind the other noises. It changes again to a pure ambient sound with no percussion at all and becomes some sort of chamber classical piece. Sounds sorta like something Mozart would have written. This carries on as it fades in and out for a quick millisecond and continues until the end of the track.

Track 4 (1:13) “Hole In The Feeding Tube” is a short jazzy track that sounds like glass jars being struck for percussion very rapidly while a jazz guitar strums along at a more relaxed pace.

Track 5 (6:45) “Aces Of Galaga” sounds like a Baroque piano run (a la Bach) with some other electronic noises competing for attention as they totally bloop and bleep out of sync with the music. The classical music gets overwhelmed by the electronica and a bass comes in and starts a funk riff. The electronica begin to sound more like a video game being played with some of the squeals fairly startling. Guitar solos even manage to find their way into the whole cacophonous din. It just gets weirder and weirder as the guitar solo sounds processed and the tempo is sped up and slowed down while the clunky electronic video game simulations unfold around them. Strange indeed. Game Over.

Track 6 (3:36) “Bot's Lament” sounds like another video game but less frenetic with only a single series of processed notes creating a bizarre avant-garde riff at a slow speed with some notes bending. Turns more into a dark ambient synth sound. Maybe a theme track for Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark? Nah, too weird for her. Would definitely go well on one of those dark ambient Halloween albums.

Track 7 (7:13) “Strange Visitation” starts off with a classic record scratching noise that then turns into a strange riff that sounds like a harpsichord. Rather X-Files feeling only much weirder. It’s definitely a weird piano sound on a synthesizer but the scale is so exotic. After the piano tinkles on for a while it stops and a drone synth note sustains for a while, like for minutes actually up to the end of the track. Weird :o

Track 8 (2:07) “Evil Lurks Within” begins rather like the previous track did, that meaning an avant-garde atonal piano riff with a scary edge. It’s accompanied by intermittent ambience and bangs. Short but sweet. A true contender for scariest track that BH has conjured up :/

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T: 42:29 (Volume 11)

Track 1 (2:56) “Binge Buddy Lounge” begins as a funky rocker with steady drums and a funk bass line. The guitar takes its time joining in but when it does it’s a clean echoey series of chord plucking but eventually turns into a funk guitar counterpoint for the bass. It also engages in some light soloing while the bass line changes it up a bit. The guitar gets more bluesy.

Track 2 (4:21) “I Never Made It Without Biting (AKA Bloodblister Popcorn)” begins with a very slow drumbeat that slowly picks up speed and then a guitar strums a distorted chord over it while the drums remain energetic. As the drums continue, it does indeed start to sound like a popcorn popper as the same guitar chord strums and arpeggiates but remains the same notes.

Track 3 (1:10) “Electronic Zookeeper's Revenge” is a short electronic frenzy of bloops and bleeps with a steady hip hop type drumbeat. The electronic sounds start to dance to the beat.

Track 4 (4:04) “Delirium Chamber” begins with atonal tinkling on the piano and remains that way for a while but suddenly turns into crazy electronic noises bending their pitches as a thematic bass riff creates a soundtrack vibe. It changes it up again and sounds like underwater music of some sort. The bass returns with clicking sounds.

Track 5 (6:10) “Animatronics Séance” is as strange as the name suggests. It has a sort of tribal electro-beat while a squealing electronic note slides. They dance together and when they pause a bubble pops sometimes. Of course, it totally changes into random electronica sputtering away but the drumbeat retains that tribal jungle call. It just gets weirder and weirder as it goes on.

Track 6 (3:14) “Slunk Funk” is, well waddaya think it is?!!! A freakin’ funk track of course. Funk bass, funk guitar and drums! March on! I think we’ve heard this before rather recently in fact. Bluesy guitar with wah-wah and feedback. Too soon for this reprise. Next.

Track 7 (3:24) “Funeral For A Fiend” is an interesting synchronized riffing process. Sorta flamenco / Spanish guitar runs but very avant-prog as well. Strangely tuned guitars that do strange things. The tone is clean and the runs are rapid. A guitar(s) only track, this one. Cool. Almost sounds like the fast intro part to Rush’s “La Villa Strangiato” only out of tune.

Track 8 (3:50) “Chicken Cleaver Duty” a drumbeat and ambience turns into a techno beat that gets attacked by another drumbeat and then both fade away while the ambience returns but a chaotic drumbeat comes back and recomposes itself into the techno beat with faint ambience in the background. An explosion occurs and all stops. Now we hear what sounds like chickens clucking only on instruments. The techno beat gets faster and then gets slower. A weird guitar solo takes over at the end with only some cymbal action.

Track 9 (4:05) “Sugar Booger Auditory Wax Candy” is a spooky Halloween sounding melody on synthesizer but not dark ambience like some of these. This one is more playful Adam’s Family type of stuff. The guitar joins in and does fancy little licks with pauses in between. It remains a guitar only affair for most of its endurance.

Track 10 (4:25) “Random Order” is a pop dance number with heavy hip hop bass drumbeats and tinkly chimes providing a cute little melody. Well until it turns into a dark ambient drone with a smooth guitar but wait! It changes again into a keyboard riff and then a toy drum with jazz guitar and then……oh what’s the point in going through the list. The given name of the track is just as it suggests. It’s like a sampler of different styles totally unrelated but all existing in the weird BH universe. I love these kind of wild rides. It’s like a musical kaleidoscope.

Track 11 (4:46) “Scabscratcher Shuffle (They Buried Him Alive)” continues the avant-jazz guitar with an intermittent tinny clang both punctuated by silence. The jazz guitar becomes more recognizable as a jazz riff and electronic percussion intermittently keeps a beat. The guitar builds up a cool swing and syncopation as if this is a real track only slightly muddied under the tone. It develops into a more bluesy form of jazz. A nice ending and a reminder that BH is a serious musician and not just an avant-weirdo who conjures up some of the strangest experimental sound collages ever. Great track.

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H: 49:44 (Volume 12)

Track 1 (3:12) “Animatronics Workshop” kicks off with funk bass, unenergetic drumbeat and a guitar that only wants to play half the time meaning it just supplements a few notes here and there. It’s rather a half-funk number. The guitar becomes more agitated and adds more notes but it’s like a the blues with only certain notes emphasized. The bass remains nonchalant but has a nice tone. The guitar turns into a jazzy blues lick by the end. Way cool!

Track 2 (10:48) “The Organ Grinder's Mishap..” takes us in a different direction with an energetic tom-tom drum and cymbals cranking out while a clean echoey guitar slowly strums away. After a couple minutes it completely changes gear and turns into a synthesizer plunking away like a popcorn popper with a single guitar chord repetitively strummed. After the plunking ceases, the guitar plays on alone but actually sounds like it might be a harp actually. But it stops and weird electronic noises come in and then it goes into a rather experimental ambient mode with occasional drum crashes. The layers of electronic effects increase and everything utilized to create tension. After a while it changes up and shrill notes start to blast away and then begin to sound like the theme track to the “Jaws” movie (or maybe “Psycho”) and then it freaks out totally. It then becomes lullaby guitar music.

Track 3 (2:15) “The Last Tooth To Be Pulled” begins with upbeat drum driven synth funk with weird note slides on processed guitar that seem to be talking to each other. It stays weird and funky till the end.

Track 4 (10:16) “Alektorophobia” is a tripped out ghoulish electronic haunting that has a startling dramatic electronic bass crash that comes and goes. Perfect for Halloween! A steady drumbeat kicks in after a while. It abruptly changes into a weird galloping electronic sound with other synthesized notes adding a strange melody but after a while changes back into a sort of bigbeat type sound with heavy drumbeat and melodic synth line. It continues to get freakier with reverbing notes and then atonal polyphonic touches. It stays weird and freaky. This one is horrifying but i love it anyway.

Track 5 (2:57) “Electromagnetic Interference” begins with a bunch of clicking sounds and a talking “something” while jazz guitar is played in the background. Extra percussive things included. Track 6 (3:33) “The Sticker On Endorphins” is a strange series of electronic notes that sound like a 70s primitive video game. Melodic patterns do emerge briefly at times but mostly a drone type of note that comes and goes.

Track 7 (1:19) “One Last Breath” has tinkling guitars with note bends which simulate breathing i guess.

Track 8 (15:19) “Monsta Kreep-A-Thon Mk. II / The Revenge Of Mutant Slunkzilla” turns out to be another lengthy funk-a-thon with wickedly wild bass slapping away with a killa processed guitar tone that makes the monstas come out. Monsta funk is where it’s at after all. Yet another lengthy funk attack on this endless multi-disc release. This one stays funky as the bass remains a constant perpetual loop with different segments but always recurring. The guitar has permission to go for broke and creates some wild ass acrobatics within the confinements of the funk riff. It goes on far too long but the guitar manages to keep things interesting despite the length. A nice background track but not OMG or anything of the sort.

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E: 45:01 (Volume 13)

Track 1 (45:01) “The Butcher’s Last Dance”

is the grand finale of the 13 volume monster release with one ginormous one track lasting 3/4 of an hour. It begins with a rather unexciting electro-drumbeat and a few guitar slides but then it changes into a military march drum style with the guitar doing bluesy lick acrobatics around it. The guitar lick is replaced by either a keyboard or a totally processed guitar but basically doing the same thing. OK, it’s clear now that the guitar is simply changing tones and timbres and effects but basically juggling the same duties over the military percussive march. Sounds like “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” actually. The guitar parts get weirder and wilder.

Ten minutes in and the military march percussion continues as well as the guitar doing it’s antics around it. There is no bass to be heard or any other instruments. This is BH jamming on guitar around a monotonous metronome type of percussive style. Very impressive stuff as he gets funky, he gets down and dirty in the soloing department and dishes out all kinds of feedback and bluesy fury often in the Jimi Hendrix tradition. Around the 15 minute mark, this is all going strong as the march never ends and neither do the guitar gymnastics which get quite wickedly freaky at times.

Twenty minutes in, same military march but the guitar effects are getting more bizarre and bordering on electronica bloops and beeps but enough guitar twang keeps it grounded in the guitar world but it makes me wonder sometimes as everything becomes more atonal and video game sounding. There is even a very warped solo around “It’s A Small World After All,” you know, the Disneyland attraction. The guitar stops soloing and starts arpeggiating chords instead in a squeaky clean tone. The drum march continues unabated.

Thirty minutes in and it seems the military march is here for the entirety of this last disc finale but the guitar parts are getting more adventurous in not only unconventional soloing techniques but more reckless in distortion, tempo, timbre and are now aiming for the most bold and daring freakiness allowable by law. At this point i’m diggin’ the guitar parts but the percussive parts are becoming quite annoying and monotonous. The dichotomy has never been more clear at this point! Perhaps this is a lesson in how humankind has cut itself off from the nature rhythms of the universe. I dunno. Just sayin’!

Forty minutes in and guess what? The military march remains unchanged. The guitar parts have become unrecognizable as guitars as they not only ratchet up extreme speeds but create a surreal counterpoint to the monotonous percussive march. Never before have i heard two musical parts drift so far apart but i guess a half hour of pounding in a marching rhythm gives liberty to do such? By the time we get close to the end, the guitar sounds like a motor engine revving up at great speeds.

This is actually a brilliant strategy for a huge behemoth of a track but not exactly something that invites a repeated listen very often. However given the circumstances it does make this 13 CD release go out with an extraordinary bang.

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Total Time: 9 hours 27 minutes 37 seconds! Whew!!!!

What can i say about IN SEARCH OF THE, the ultimate multi-disc release? There is more than enough OMG outstanding material to be discovered here. There is also a lot of mediocrity as well, however, i think the joy of the treasures certainly outweighs the tracks that may not constitute greatness yet certainly don’t qualify as unlistenable. After sitting through this in its entirety it is quite clear that many of the eggs that would later hatch and constitute the never-ending Pike series were first laid here on this expansive set of experimentalism. In the end this behemoth of a release is just too bloated for an essential label but certainly is a notch above merely good. 3.5 sounds fair and each of the 12 volumes can easily be heard on YouTube but personally i love this one enough to actually seek out the physical copy. No clucking kidding, folks! And DO remember to give me a puppy treat for this one ;)

RUINS Symphonica

Album · 1998 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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In the ever changing weird world of Yoshida Tastsuya and Hisashi Sasaki came yet another RUINS release in the busy year of 1998 when they released four albums (“Refusal Fossil,” “Vrresto,” “Tohjinbo” (as Derek and the Ruins)” as well as their eleventh album SYMPHONICA which found the duo expanding their sound a bit by adding keyboard player Kenichi Oguchi and not one but two female singers, Emi Elonola and Aki Kubota. The tracks included are remakes from earlier RUINS albums with “Thebes”,”Infect” and ”Big Head” coming from “Stonehenge,” “Praha In Spring” from “Burning Stone,” “Graviyaunosch” from the same titled album and “Brixon Varromiks” and “Bliezzaning Moltz” coming from the “Hyderomastgroningem” album. The results of these additional characters at play creates one of the most fulfilling RUINS experiences to date and offers a greater expansion into the world of prog and a sound even more reminiscent of their primarily zeuhl inspired influence of Magma. With the extra touches of the keyboard there is also a rather avant-prog approach as heard by the Italian band Area as well in some of the unhinged riffing touches and the male vocals remind me of the crazy vocal antics of Demetrio Stratos as well in his more outrageous form.

As usual Yoshida and Sasaki pound out their most frenetic Magama inspired zeuhl rhythms cranked up on overdrive and turned up to “ultra-freaky,” however despite the hyperactive freneticism that RUINS so deftly churns out at light-speed, SYMPHONICA as the name implies has a more smoothed-around-the-edges feel due to the suave effects of the keyboards that help craft one of the most “accessible” RUINS albums in their canon if that adjective can truly apply to anything that RUINS pumps out. While clearly closer in sound to traditional 70s Magma on such albums as “Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh” with the female singers creating a comparable operatic frenetic whizzing up and down the musical scales, RUINS as expected takes it all to the next ten levels and beyond by pumping out more bombastic rhythms laced with angular time signature frenzies gone absolutely wild with keyboard runs jolting around as quickly as Yoshida’s percussive limbs pound incessant chops about.

While being crazed and technically demented seems to be the primary goal of the RUINS experience, on SYMPHONICA there are plenty of passages that simply allow notes to sustain while the divas grace the listener with utterly pure vowel sounds approaching glass shattering magnitudes. This is a really impressive album as all the members are extremely playful and a rather tight unit as the vocals, keys, bass and drums can play in complete unison or meander and leap frog around each other creating bizarre musical atmospheres. While the two long time members have always been an impressively tight unit, the magic of this album derives from the stylistic diversity and virtuosic deliveries of Kenichi’s mastery of the synthesized effects. Likewise the duo diva effect of Aki and Eleonola not only match the magnitude of their Magma influences but take them places those pioneers never dared venture. This is one of the most adventurous zeuhl releases i’ve ever heard and despite the usual freneticism of a typical RUINS release seems a little more disciplined here as the crazy parts are mixed stylishly well with more contemplative and “normal” aspects of the music. This is one of my favorite RUINS releases. The extra musicians add the very touch many of their albums lack.

DAMAAR (دمار) Triumph Through Spears Of Sacrilege

Demo · 2007 · Black Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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So you think black metal is exclusively an anti-Christian type of bombast solely for pissed off Europeans to spout off their venom? Don’t tell Muslims who have adopted the lo-fi sacrilegious and misanthropic styled discordant furor for their very own. While not exactly conquering the Islamic world, there are a few examples of top notch black metal erupting from all over the war torn regions of the Middle East in all its chaotic distorted din. Janaza and Seeds of Iblis come from Iraq and the black metal band Al-Namrood defies all odds and emerged in the unlikely theocracy of Saudi Arabia but perhaps nobody and i mean nobody erupts in full vitriolic fury more than the war metal band DAMAAR (which means “destruction” in Arabic) from Beirut, Lebanon that released a mere demo turned EP titled TRIUMPH THROUGH SPEARS OF SACRILEGE in 2007 and then like a mirage in the sand completely disappeared leaving this sonic assault as the only evidence that they ever existed however other Lebanese black metal acts like Ayat and Veinen have certainly attempted to match this ruinous havoc.

If you think you’ve heard bombastic black metal brutality then you haven’t heard anything if you haven’t had DAMAAR erupt out of your speakers leaving war metal wimps like Teitanblood, Blasphemy (whom they cover here and blow away in the process) and Archgoat in the dust. With tracks like “Preaching For Mass Suicide” and “The Goatphoenix” this band channels all their war torn fury into an eruptive pyroclastic frenzy of raw energy that is some of the most brutal and intense sonic savagery ever committed to release and perfectly emulates the chaotic swirl of incessant violence that has plagued the region at large where they reside for time immemorial with the biggest middle finger towards the religious dogma that dictates the repressive stranglehold of a truly free society.

TRIUMPH THROUGH SPEARS OF SACRILEGE is a mercifully short sonic journey into a gun barrel as it’s being fired in successive rounds as the incessant pummeling of blastbeats of Napalm’s drumming act in tandem with the buzzsaw distortion of Nunrider’s guitar and Heathen’s bass while utterly ravaging rhythmic jackhammer approach to thoroughly deplete the listener of any possible signs of hope from eternal bondage of chaotic devastation while Heathen’s vocals provide some of the most intense rage i’ve ever heard in a black metal act and he has a greater vocal range than most. Technically this was only released as a demo but some of the best black metal comes in lo-fi underground packages and DAMAAR really stands out as one of the best. If you love the most hyperactive and brutal aspects of black metal, it doesn’t get any more punishing than this short journey into the bowls of hell.

BORN OF OSIRIS The New Reign

EP · 2007 · Deathcore
Cover art 3.27 | 10 ratings
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The Chicago based deathcore band BORN OF OSIRIS had quite the difficult time choosing a name as in a mere short period from 2003-07 they chose and rejected the names Diminished, Your Heart Engraved and Rosecrance before finally settling on the Egyptian deity who was the Egyptian god of the afterlife. During that time they produced a few demos under all those names but wouldn’t release their debut studio EP - THE NEW REIGN until 2007 as BORN OF OSIRIS. Although the band started out more as a metalcore outfit they began adding more death metal elements such as the abrasive growled vocals as well as the expected rhythmic breakdowns more suited to the death metal scene however all those core elements are retained. This band somehow latched onto the progressive world as it seems to pop up as such although the progressive touches take a back seat to the brutal metal aspects in the forefront.

BORN OF OSIRIS deliver a typical death metal meets metal ore = deathcore sound with the expected death metal riffs and blast beats while retaining all those core breakdowns with all the hardcore punk infused energy and brutality, however what sets this band apart from the rest of the pack is that it utilizes atmospheric keyboards to create a backdrop of ambience and also throws in a few unorthodox sound effects on the side. Ronnie Canizaro’s vocals are nothing out of the ordinary nor are the staccato riffs of Lee McKinney however Matthew Pantelis dishes out some melodic lead guitar parts along with squeals and little tricks and trinkets to add a sprinkling of more class metal to the mix including a few solos here and there.

The percussion seems to be the weakest part as i’m not hearing the OMG drum abuse i would expect for a deathcore band, or at least not to the extend that i would prefer. Yeah, there are blast beats now and again but generally the percussive parts are fairly by the books and not overly exciting. Overall the tracks are all fairly similar with only the keyboards and lead guitar differentiating them in any significant ways. Deathcore is certainly not my favorite subgenre in the metal universe and BORN OF OSIRIS doesn’t dish out a whole lot of originality to make me change my mind on that one. This debut is a nicely delivered near 22 minute display of metal energy with some atmospheric elements thrown in but in the end it’s all fairly predictable and doesn’t even come close to blowing me away.

BORN OF OSIRIS The Eternal Reign

EP · 2017 · Deathcore
Cover art 2.50 | 2 ratings
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After their short EP debut studio release “The New Reign” which appeared in 2007, BORN OF OSIRIS roughly released a new album every two years but somewhere along the way the band decided that they just weren’t happy with their debut EP and it desperately needed to be re-recorded and repackaged, retitled and released once again. Come ten years later and the newly named THE ETERNAL REIGN accomplishes this goal by taking all eight tracks back to the studio and polishing them into deathcore perfection with even a bonus track in the form of “Glorious Day” to finish it off with bringing the new playing time to a whopping 23 minutes and 50 seconds.

Well, what can someone exactly say about a brutal deathcore band trying to re-record and album. How about…. REALLY? Ok, first of all, i’m rarely a fan of any band re-recording an album because of nitpicky imperfections no matter how legit they may be due to the fact that for every inch of error is erased, so too is a pound of passion that made the album stand out in the first place. However in the case of BORN OF OSIRIS who utilize a brutal deathened core sound designed to bang your head and make your ears bleed with slight touches of sugary atmospheric keyboards to make the bitter just a little sweet, i have to shake my head and ask the obvious question: WHY BOTHER?

To the casual listener this won’t sound a bit different as all the growly screams, all the distorted guitar riffs, solos, drum blasts and metal accoutrements are pretty much following down the same path. Where this second rendition of the EP does differ is in the “extras” department namely in the ambience and keyboard effects that add new riffs here and there and stand out as more prominent features of the band sprinkled across the album but nothing added makes this a substantially better album where it counts, namely in the songwriting department where all the tracks sound just as average as they did the first time around. I have to admit that the percussion has improved over the original.

Perhaps it would’ve been a better idea to focus on new music instead. The only redeeming aspect of this album is that there is one new track titled “Glorious Day” which is the best track on the EP which only serves the purpose of showing how far the band has come in its technical prowess and ability to make tracks more interesting. Hmmm, maybe that’s the point? I dunno but this track shows a more adept ability of blending all the core elements with more classic metal sounds, more sophisticated atmospheric embellishments and even the drum parts are more diverse than elsewhere. Unfortunately it lasts a mere two and a half minutes so hardly worth tracking this down for a mere bonus track which is good but not outstanding. Nah, this is mostly a waste of time.

ENSLAVED E

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 6 ratings
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It’s always an exciting day when one of your favorite and most consistent metal bands releases an album and continues that exciting thrill of anticipation of whether they will continue their lengthy run as ambassadors of the extreme metal scene after more than two decades on the scene or the unthinkable of botching their rein and utterly teeter off that precarious precipice that they ride like a skateboarder sliding down a staircase railing. As the decade runs closer to its end Norway’s ENSLAVED took only two years to craft yet another installment into their progressive black metal universe after the release of 2015’s “In Times” which left more than a few loyal fans divided over exactly where they saw the band was heading next. While true that the album continued down the path of the expected quality material, there was still that lurking nagging feeling that perhaps ENSLAVED is just one tiny step away from completely derailing into pools of stagnation and ultimately becoming the feared and dreaded parodies of themselves. In 2017 the band emerge from their cocoon of secrecy and let loose their 14th full-length studio album E.

With an album title so truncated to one mere letter, it automatically triggers that WTF response and thankfully Ivar Bjørnson has explained this nebulous concept to smother any possible misconceptions in their nascency. E apparently has a dualistic meaning, firstly being a letter of the Latin alphabet but is also a reference to the rune Ehwaz which is depicted as our letter M (note both letters on album cover painted by long time associate Truis Espedal.) Ehwaz simply means horse and the relationship with humankind’s most endearing animal friend that celebrates one of our longest cross-species collaborations. Once you get past all the horse symbology, the title and tracks included expand further into the symbolisms of the duality of humankind and nature as well as fear and subconscious drive all wrapped up in the expected Viking imagery constructed through poetic prose in both gurgling raspy utterances as well as clean Gregorian chant inspired harmonies that exude a beauty and beast combo effect only this is bro style.

As evidenced from the sneak peak video for the first track “Storm Son,” ENSLAVED have entered new sonic arenas indeed and have once again taken all the different styles they’ve accumulated over their vast career and simply expanded them into new territory as if they take their Viking expansionist roots and simply apply those principles to conquering new musical territory. As E begins, i was expecting the immediate bombast of heaviness before meandering into softer passages of folky and ambience atmospheric touches but E takes a totally different approach than past offerings. This one begins with the sensual sounds of birds and the blowing of a gjallarhorn before horses whinny and clomp along insinuating a battle scene to come, however the track unexpectedly delivers a clean dreamy guitar riff that delivers the ultimate head scratcher making me wonder if these guys have pulled an Ulver on us and went post-rock or some non-metal direction as the repetitive riffs churn on augmented by an atmospheric ambience swirling around every arpeggiated note. Goodbye black metal ENSLAVED, hello progressive rockers who have always lurked beneath the noisefest. Oh, wait there’s those raspy vocals on top of the clean angelic choral. (then once again the riff ratchets up in intensity but this isn’t quite the metal i was expecting) as Grutle Kjellson takes the lead with his raspy evil-as-fuck vocal style. As the synthesizers swirl around and the staccato guitar riffs pound on like Teutonic marches on Prussian plains it seems that ENSLAVED has gone Opeth on us and finally divorced the black metal aspects that have carried them this far into the 21st century minus those raspy vocals of course. But wait! This is progressive black metal and nothing happens too quickly in this world. Finally at seven minutes in the black metal guitars and bass kick in with synchronized drums and yeah baby! Oops, i jumped to conclusions. This is black metal for PATIENT fans :p After a rough start things seem on track once again although the atmospheric synths and staccato guitar riffs are totally uncharacteristic of the ENSLAVED sound. This band has decided to carry on into new even more progressive arenas. Will the fickle black metal fans like this? Probably not. As “The River’s Mouth” takes the baton, the black metal groove is back at first but alternates substantially with the progressive metal segments that sound more like something out of a post-metal sludge band’s canon than anything ENSLAVED has tackled. It doesn’t take long to figure out that this is a band always looking for parameters to overstep while breaking rules and worshipping runes and on E the floodgates have opened.

Many surprises lurk on E which is of course the key ingredient (surprise that is) to keep things spiced up. For example, “Sacred Horse” begins like a hippie dippy folk track for a few seconds but then bursts into the more familiar extreme metal sound of past glories. “Axis Of The Worlds” has a very different sort of groove than the band is used to with a much more sophisticated labyrinthine and circuitous riffing methodology that ratchets up their progressive rock aspects even further and with the mellotron organ sounds that accompany may raise the red flag for a progressive pollen attack for those allergic to the world of progressive rock but somehow once again the band walks that thin line between the black and prog worlds all the while including some bizarre electronica sputtering in the background reminiscent of electropop bands like Röyksopp whose cover they tackle with the rhetorical self-directed question “What Else Is There?” “Fathers Of Eolh” is probably the most un-ENSLAVED sounding track on E with its heightened 5/4 timing sludgy riffs, ambient shoegaze backdrop and liturgical proggy vocal styles mostly delivered in a clean, clear yet turgid display of interweaving compositional parts that are laced together in various alternating ways. “Hiindslight” is yet another progressive metal behemoth that tackles hitherto unexplored arenas as it churns out complex guitar riffs that range from brutal to sensual and graced by the raspy vocals of Kjellson. This is the track that will for sure act as the sunlight that scares the black metal vampires into their coffins as it incorporates a whirlwind of progressive features including the unthinkable use of flute and saxophone. “Djupet” is another more traditional track tacked on to appease the hardcores.

You may be wondering just how progressive can they possible get. Well before you get your knickers in a twist and cry out that they’ve totally gone Opeth on us, it should never be forgotten that ENSLAVED was always a progressive black metal band which began with their debut album “Vikingligr Veldi” and despite tamping down the progressive qualities on their next three albums, “Frost,” “Eld” and “Blodhemn” they nevertheless persisted under the surface before finally erupting once again in full pent-up fury on 2000’s “Mardraum: Beyond The Within” only to have the progressive aspects outweigh the black metal from “Monumension” and the albums that followed. The fact is that unlike Opeth who utterly abandoned their extreme metal roots to focus exclusively on progressive rock, ENSLAVED never for even a single album smothered the black metal out of their overall sound. While it’s true the black metal has taken a back seat to the progressive side of the coin, it’s more akin to the band having a new lover move in while banishing the ex to the basement only to be chained up but kept around because she’s still useful for all those chores around the house.

Yeah, the black metal may be the ugly ex-wife who is forced to perform as an indentured servant but she still has a role to play while ENSLAVED’s promiscuous Hugh Hefner tendencies take on a musical libido all their own. Keep in mind that the band’s name is ENSLAVED and not “Emancipated.” Set free the black metal and we’re left with an Age of Aquarius la-la-la singalong feel good album. Now that wouldn’t be very metal now would it? While ENSLAVED has not gone Opeth on us, it can be argued they’ve followed in the same footsteps another fellow Norwegian and gone insanely Ihsahn on us instead. You don’t believe me? For anyone who has kept up with Emperor’s frantic frontman as a solo artist, you will hear lots of parallels with albums ranging from “The Adversary” to “Arktis,” not only in the highly complex time signature rich riffing styles but in the addition of unorthodox metal instruments with the inclusion of flautist Daniel Mage and sax blower Kjetil Møster on the tracks “Hindsight” and “Feathers Of Eolh” and also the inclusion of fellow Norwegian Einar Kvitrafn from the Nordic dark folk outfit Wardruna. OK, i lied. There is one moment of going Opeth and that is the short use of mellotron style keyboard sounds at the end of “Sacred Horse.” This is probably one of the parts of the album that doesn’t exactly sound like it’s at home here and i concur that this should have been aborted before birth, but we should never let a few moments of awkwardness destroy the big picture.

Ultimately i’m finding E is about contrast and tension. There are simple clean parts that are unlike anything the band has done but somehow after slowly emerging elements, the band always resolves itself with the heavier and more frantic dynamics delivering fairly balanced compositions that perhaps can carry on a wee bit too long at points but still never entering the extremities of the uncomfortableness zone. It goes without saying that ENSLAVED alienated the one-dimensional kvlter-than-thou crowds long ago when the scales tipped in the progressive metal direction and with E, the band challenges their fans once again and therefore the close-minded, musically illiterate and those who simply get complacent in a particular phase will probably piss all over this one, however if dissected like a laboratory rat in order to scrutinize the inner parts, E is actually the logical next frontier for ENSLAVED to venture into. As the band continues to mature it would be pathetic for them to linger in pastures already explored and personally i much prefer a band to delve into new arenas despite less than perfect results than stagnate in festering doldrums of inertness. E may not constitute the absolute pinnacle of the career of ENSLAVED but i’m finding this to have much more of a return value than “In Times” and offers yet another creative and excellent rung in their long ladder of musical development since their humble beginnings during the second wave of early black metal.

ORTHRELM OV

Album · 2005 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.35 | 5 ratings
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The metal universe has always been about borrowing disparate ideas and methodologies from other varied musical genres from all around the world. After all, the whole genre began by taking the psych laden blues rock of the 60s and dragging it down into the darker recesses of the sound spectrum to conjure up some of the most gloomy and sombre human emotions to emerge in its wake and simply cranking up the distortion level with darker lyrics. So it’s really no surprise that as the simple blues inspirations became exhausted in the 70s that new fuel needed to be consumed for the metal machine to take musical inspiration and ignite so it will burn like a forest fire unleashing new hitherto unthinkable possibilities. ORTHRELM, the avant-garde music duo of Mick Barr on guitar and Josh Blair on drums had been leading up to this triumph of sonic glory called OV since their debut in 2001. While the metal world cross-pollinated like a lava flow smothering the fertile lands below a volcano it continued to ratchet up its complexity level and as it began to reach the unthinkable heights of the pinnacle of progressive rock, it was beginning to seem like there was nowhere left to go.

That’s where forward thinkers like Mick Barr come in. On ORTHRELM’s 2005 landmark album OV, the duo exponentially lifted themselves above the sheer math rock wankery that their earlier albums are known for. While classical music has certainly been a major part of the hard rock and heavy metal universe ever since Ritchie Blackmore incorporated it into Mark II period of Deep Purple, never before have the two extremes of virtuoso guitar shredding and the classical minimalism of artists like Steve Reich and Philip Glass ever come together until Barr and Blair released this album of polarizing extremes in the form of the OV album in 2005. Never before has an album of incredibly virtuoso shredding of guitar with the bombast of unthinkable drum abuse coalesced into a minimalistic music form that could result in a meditative practice if consumed correctly. As wild as it sounds, this album is in effect a wild ride into two musical extremes which incorporate guitar shredding with extreme minimalism simultaneously.

Despite being limited to a mere guitar and drums, Barr and Blair are veritable beasts on their instruments of choice doing unthinkable things at a million miles per second throughout pretty much the entirety of the 45 minute and 43 second single track that makes up the album OV. After several albums of pluming their feathers and ruffling them up to impress the music fans, on OV, the duo known as ORTHRELM finally delivers the promise they had been hinting at without sacrificing the intensity that they had been implementing all along. What’s cool about OV is that it goes through a series of passages that begin with a minimalistic chord progression to wail on for several minutes and seduce you into the feel of the composition and going though various changes before finally letting loose towards the end with a series of intense riffs, shredding bombast and excruciating deciblage. This is metal unlike any other and only continues the duo’s unique musical language that only they alone truly understand.

OV is a trumph in many ways. Not only does it undoubtedly indoctrinate Mick Barr into the world of fastest shredders which should not leave Josh Blair off the hook for some of the sickest drum abuse in the entire music history books but also proves that creating unthinkable speeds is not tantamount to a lack of regard for sensuality. While on previous albums ORTHRELM did seem to generate random patterns of musical intensity, on OV everything seems like the perfect cross-pollination of the most intense musical shredding session one can think of in the context of a relaxing vipassana retreat. As the single track rolls by it is engaged in a very mindful interaction between the two instruments that change up the parts ever so slightly but then without warning they divert to some new arena of musicality but always mindful of each other’s role in the overall scheme of things. OV successfully ratchets up the tension to a fulfilling climax by the end of the album where the guitar and the drums practically become one with another and take on enough roles to simulate the intensity of a full band. OV is one of those albums that must be heard to be understood. It’s simply too far removed from the context of any possible labeling.

ORTHRELM II / II

Album · 2001 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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ORTHRELM made quite the debut in 2001 by not only releasing their first EP but also three albums as well. While the lengths may make one consider EP status, considering how technically crazed the music is makes it quite acceptable that they didn’t churn out over lengthy album. After two albums titled ORTHRELM I and ORTHRELM II comes the third installment with a brown-hued cover un-intuitively titled ORTHRELM II / II which like the second edition consists of 48 short tracks with most not even reaching the minute mark with only one clocking in at over two. The duo of Mick Barr on guitar and Josh Blair on drums continues to crank out some of the most aggressive combo of guitar shredding meets proggy math rock.

ORTHRELM II / II continues to follow the trajectory of the previous releases and like the No. II continues the punk-infused energy concentrated into short tracks but on II / II the duo branch out in the dynamics significantly more but not playing at the speed of light all the time. Untitled track #12, for example, is actually mostly slow and focuses on nerdy math rock time signatures for the first minute before exploding in pyroclastic math rock flows all over the place. While Barr and Blair began this project merely imitating each other on their respective instruments, at this point they’ve taken their roles by the horns and actually create separate but equal parts although they tend to remain in sync in regards to tempo. Track #21 kinda sounds like an atonal attempt at the classical artist Rimsky Korsakov’s “Flight Of The Bumblebee”

On this one they begin sounding more like the Japanese band Ruins as Barr tones down his incessant shredding and actually engages in more punk chord energy and more bass oriented riffing. In some ways they remind me of a stripped down Psyopus or Behold…. The Arctopus as the math metal elements are more prevalent. Personally i think this is the best they put out in the year as it contains all the shredding you could ask for and more, all the snazzy jazzy drumming possible and also more variety in not just compositional structure but how different segments flow within a track. While still very much only the interest of extreme music lover craving punky metal elements married with nerdy math rock, this one offers a bit more outside of the chaotic speedfest that ORTHRELM has made their own by developing their own musical paradigm. While this is much better in variety it still sounds limited due to only the guitar and drums as the sole instruments.

ORTHRELM II

Album · 2001 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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On ORTHRELM II, Mick Barr and Jason Blair focus more on 48 extremely short tracks with most not even hitting the minute mark but at least one over the unthinkable two. The punk influence is strong on this one because instead of Barr shredding like a crazed madman nonstop for every track all the time with Blair’s bombastic percussion along for the ride, these tracks are actually less frenetic (relatively speaking) to the previous releases however the technicalities of the math rock are more prevalent with more attention shown on the mindful meandering of the sonic storm into more patterned dynamics with Barr’s guitar parts used for special effects rather than simply shredding like it’s the end of the world.

One of the most noticeable developments from ORTHRELM I to ORTHRELM II is that Barr isn’t afraid to riff on the bass notes of his guitar and actually utilizes punkish power chords instead of incessant tinny treble shredding all the time. Likewise Blair has pushed his technicalities into more focused arenas that find more diverse colors in his percussive playing abilities. Perhaps the brevity of the tracks allows the speed to develop tracks more efficiently so that the members don’t feel they have to linger on in robotic monotony for too long and likewise when they are on fully fueled spastic mode where everything is whizzing around at a million miles per second, the tracks tend to be very short some with some lasting less than ten seconds. The 2 minute and 34 second 24th track stands out the most because it contains little frenetic chunks of chaos punctuated with silence before turning into the seemingly formless pummeling parts.

This is hardly the stuff of most music lovers’ dreams. This is reserved for only the most adventurous musical techies out there who crave the most extreme cross-pollinating features of brutal extreme metal with punishing prog math rock. I wouldn’t go as far as many in saying that this is void of all emotional content. That is never true of music. This is definitely not warm, fuzzy feel good music in any way and reflects a sense of bleakness and helplessness as if highly advanced technologies have suddenly taken over the planet. This is in the realms of the surreal where Barr and Blair have virtually created their own musical lexicon with a syntax spoken by no other therefore the music will come across like listening to poetry in an obscure indigenous language that has never been heard before. For those into divorcing everything familiar, this is an interesting ride indeed but at the same time the monotony of only two instruments is what keeps this from being totally exciting in my book.

ORTHRELM I

Album · 2001 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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ORTHRELM I picks up after the debut and develops the song structures significantly. Whereas “Iorxhscimtor” focused primarily on Mick Barr’s extraordinary shredding skills and Jason Blair’s bombastic drumming style, little emphasis was placed on the math rock infused compositions. While that EP debuted the duo’s idiosyncratic musical language that will remind you of no other, ORTHRELM I creates a more varied palette of musical madness despite everything being on extreme hyperactivity mode with ceaseless shredding and skin pounding. The production is also of better value with less of a harsh noise intensity and a somewhat more smoothed out veneer.

Barr has stated in an interview that this music reflects the chaoticness of infinitely small and represents the quantum jumps of molecules at the most fundamental level of the construction of the physical universe. If there were to be any comparison at all it would have to be with the Japanese band Ruins who for the most part are also a noisy duo trying to create some of the harshest and unorthodox music chaos possible. ORTHRELM simply takes this same approach and injects it with steroids, cocaine, crystal meth and gallons of caffeine. This music is a nonstop math rock shredfest that is totally designed for the most unnerving reactions and a display case for the inhuman physical prowess of the two members hammering out some of the most intense sonic destruction possible.

While the magnitude of these two playing this stuff is thoroughly impressive, i can only feel that it sounds incomplete with only two band members. I would prefer to hear other instruments whizzing about creating unthinkable counterpoints that take the music to another level since only two instruments whizzing about at full speed becomes a bit monotonous. Yes, i’m a lover of extreme music of all forms and virtuosity is a sign of high art. ORTHRELM succeeds in creating high art at a low level meaning they opt for an intentional lo-fi DIY operation that takes some of the most disciplined skills in the musical kingdom and divert them into a form of controlled chaos. Extremely impressive but not something that beckons a return listen often.

ORTHRELM Iorxhscimtor

EP · 2001 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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ORTHRELM is one of the many side projects of Mick Barr who is probably best known for his work with the avant-black metal band Krallice but has a rather prolific output under different band names including Crom-Tech, M.N.D.L.B.L.S.T.N.G, Mossenek, Quix*o*tic and The Flying Luttenbachers just to know a few. ORTHRELM is basically a mere duo with Barr on guitar and Josh Blair on drums. The not so easy to pronounce debut IORXHSCIMTOR was their debut EP that showcased their most unorthodox avant-garde metal sound which not only displays Barr’s uncanny ability to shred up a storm on the guitar but also the highly experimental compositional styles that show no relationship to any form of classified musical style. This sonic assault seems to exist in its very own universe.

IORXHSCIMTOR is a short EP only lasting 16 minutes 28 seconds but packs in enough energy for 100 brutal death metal albums and a few hardcore punk albums on the side. While the shredding of guitars is incessant and every single note whizzes by at a million miles per second, the compositions are actually rooted in a very nerdy technical form of math rock with bizarre time signature changes and atonal chordal progressions. While Barr performs unthinkable guitar gymnastics on the guitar, Blair blows the roof off the house with his virtuoso percussive performances as well more than keeping up with Barr. In fact the duo pretty much play in sync with one another no matter how chaotic the noisefest becomes.

Despite the music being turned up to 11 almost all the time, there are moments of just plain math rock that do little dances in bizarre time sigs with peculiarly arranged notes juxtaposed next to one another. This is the epitome of extreme avant-garde metal as the tempo is about as quickly played as humanly possible while the noise factor is ratcheted up to extreme irritation mode. This will definitely bug your parents and it’s unlikely that anyone except the most hardcore adventurous music lovers who crave every aspect of the disparate strains of extreme music all in an orgy together will even remotely like this. Personally i am a glutton for punishment and find this appealing but fully admit that this is indeed extreme for the sake of extreme without much thought put into diversity amongst tracks.

BUCKETHEAD Octave Of The Holy Innocents (with Jonas Hellborg & Michael Shrieve)

Album · 1993 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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The album OCTAVE OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS (which is a mixing of two Christian biblical accounts - “Massacre of the Innocents” referring to the infanticide of Herod the Great and the term OCTAVE which refers to the eighth day after a feast) is a crossroads for the three distinct musical careers passing for a brief blip in time. The album was constructed and initiated by the Swedish jazz-fusion bassist JONAS HELLBORG who after working with the likes of Shawn Lane, John McLaughlin and a whole list of others decided to put together an acoustic trio of performers to cross-pollinate his jazz-fusion style with other musical talents.

On drums is the veteran percussive talent of MICHAEL SHRIEVE, the percussionist extraordinaire who helped usher Santana to worldwide fame when he wooed a new generation at Woodstock as the youngest performer in the entire event. Also on board was some new blood in the form of the strange chicken loving guitarist BUCKETHEAD who after only one album under his belt was already making waves in musicians’ circles. This is in fact only the second album he played on in 1993 at the tender age of 24. Instead of releasing the album under a solo billing, HELLBORG democratically gave the album credits to all three participants.

OCTAVE OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS is an all acoustic instrumental affair with five lengthy tracks clocking in over the 42 minute mark. BUCKETHEAD plays exclusively acoustic guitar whereas HELLBORG plays acoustic bass and adds keyboards occasionally. SHRIEVE sticks to a traditional drum set and steers clear of any of the Latin rhythms of his Santana days. The music on this one is primarily set within the context of HELLBORG’s style of jazz-fusion progressive chording and virtuosic bass slapping techniques. The tracks are well constructed jazz-fusion pieces that allow extended jamming sessions to let all three instrumentalists strut their stuff.

The fifteen minute opener “Rana And Fara” swallows up a whole third of the album and runs the gamut of extreme placid tranquil build ups that peak and trough and ultimately cede into more technical and energetic workouts. The true technical prowess is displayed on “Death That Sleeps In Them” where all three performers engage in jazz-fusion workouts that are literally melting strings and skins alike and display the newbie BUCKETHEAD more than able to keep up with the big kids on the block. “The Past Is A Different Country, I Don’t Live There Anymore” is a much more reflective piece that stretches out to over nine minutes and reminds me of some of Mahavishnu Orchestra’s more serene moments which obviously rubbed off on HELLBORG during his days with John McLaughlin.

“Child King” is probably my favorite track on the album as it traverses through flamenco meets jazz type workouts with a touch of Classical Hindustani in the mix. SHRIEVE exercises some of his most adroit drum and cymbal action on this one. “Kidogo” is an energetic closer that shows an exciting tension in the contrast of HELLBORG’s bombastic bass compete with the drums while BUCKETHEAD creates atmospheric slide effects and other mind-bending riffage. OMG! This is truly an album of top notch professionals at the helm and they all perform with each other spectacularly. There is not a shred of ego to be felt and each musician perfectly complements the other for the entirely of the album’s run. A very exciting stripped down piece of musical art here.

BUCKETHEAD Left Hanging (with Travis Dickerson)

Album · 2010 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Yet another collaborative effort of BUCKETHEAD in 2010 and the fifth overall with TRAVIS DICKERSON. While this one is primarily a DICKERSON album, the chicken lover has received equally billing. This one is mostly a bunch of unreleased tracks from previous sessions of the “Dragons Of Eden” and “Population Override” albums as well as sessions from the other musical collaborations of the bands Thanatopsis, Axiology and Gorgone sessions. Because of the different sessions involved, this one has many drummers credited. BUCKETHEAD handles bass and guitar, DICKERSON plays keyboards and the drum duties are divided up between Brain, Ramy Antoun and Pinchface.

LEFT HANGING follows in the footsteps of the other BUCKETHEAD & DICKERSON collaborative effort that also included Brain (who is on this album but receives no equal billing) in that it continues the jammy jazz-fusion psychedelia of the “Dragons Of Eden” album. Back are the jazzy chord progressions and the psychedelic 70s mellotron sounding organ runs as well as the fusion bombast of the three respective drummers on board. Noticeably absent from this one is the haunting chamber rock cello added on “Dragons” which gave that a more distinct and unique sound. LEFT HANGING sounds more like a typical jazz-fusion outfit from the early to mid-70s at the zenith of the prog rock heyday.

Unfortunately this one isn’t quite as interesting because it sounds too traditional compared to “Dragons.” Everything is played excellently with BUCKETHEAD not only delivering some mean guitar workouts but some funky slappin’ bass runs as well. DICKERSON dishes out some nice contrast of mellotron drenched organ runs along with more funky keyboard runs a la Herbie Hancock’s “Headhunters” era. Despite sounding like this is some long lost artifact from the 70s, it sounds authentic and organically constructed as all the musicians seamlessly jam and play off each other with ease. Despite the fact these tracks were all recorded during different sessions, they all connect fairly well and actually add more flavor to the overall feel of the album.

As someone who is well versed in jazz and jazz-fusion of the 60s and 70s, LEFT HANGING is by no means a top notch sort of album in that rich field of cross-pollination however this is a very engaging album that is excellently performed, nicely produced and elegantly retro to boot. Jazz-fusion is a type of subgenus that has a varying spectrum with some leaning heavy on the jazz side and other on the rock. I would say that BUCKETHEAD & DICKERSON are definitely closer to the rock side of things on LEFT HANGING with tight steady rhythms that for the most part are absent of strong syncopation and other overtly aspects of jazz. However the chord progressions and some of the dynamics are definitely out of the jazz playbook. The percussion is more of a simple rock beat and fails to engage in a jazz context. This is a fun album to listen to but i’m not as fond of it as “Dragons Of Eden” however there are a few surprises that will shock you!

BUCKETHEAD Captain EO's Voyage

Album · 2010 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.52 | 2 ratings
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After a reference to CAPTAIN EO on the album “A Real Diamond In The Rough” titled “The Return Of Captain EO” which refers to the 3D sci-fi film by Michael Jackson, BUCKETHEAD revisited the idea with a whole album, his 29th, titled CAPTAIN EO’S VOYAGE with lots of references to Jackson’s life. This album also begins the trend of releasing albums first digitally and then following them up with a physical format at a later date. The album also signified a departure from the TDRS record label and is performed only by BUCKETHEAD on guitars and Dan Monti on bass, drums and production. Yep, that even appears to be Michael Jackson on the album cover. The movie was associated with Disneyland which is another weakness for BUCKETHEAD whose whole idea for BUCKETHEADLAND was constructed. He has been purported to spends lots of time in the Magical Kingdom and on this release he pays tribute to both artists and theme park in one shot.

This one is on the mellower side of things but sustains a fairly strong drumbeat. Overall CAPTAIN EO’S VOYAGE is a rather psychedelic rock type of album with echoey guitars, snail’s paced bass lines and intricate compositional developments that go beyond the usual mellow BH album styles of simple repetitive chord progressions that outstay their welcome. This one has more variety between tracks as well as dynamic shifts between the mellower aspects of BH’s music and the more rockin’ out however nothing on here approaches metal whatsoever. This is strictly a slowed down form of rock with psychedelic and even post-rock elements along with the occasional funk bass line. The tracks are instantly catchy and melodic while the guitar licks and solos are on the bluesy side of things. This one is cool in that the guitar, bass and drums seem to be happy existing in their own world instead of simply following a leader.

This one is pretty cool in the fact that it adds new ways to incorporate the clean echoey guitars and keep the tracks sounding distinct from each other. Whether it has any connection to the actual movie is beyond me since i’ve never seen it (and most likely never will) however this album has a playful feel to it and somehow it seems to fit with the theme. While this will never go down as my favorite BH album by any means, this one is a pleasant roller coaster ride, albeit a gentle one for those who get motion sickness too easily. Despite these mellower ones not topping my BH faves list, i have to admit that they are a nice recalibrating effect to put the others in perspective therefore even the ones i like lesser seem to have a purpose. This one may not excel beyond the original “Colma” album in performance but it’s not a bad try.

BUCKETHEAD Brain As Hamenoodle (with Brain)

Album · 2010 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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While BUCKETHEAD was releasing more albums under his own name exclusively he was also continuing to release collaborative efforts as well. In 2010 he and his friends Bryan “Brain” Mantia on drums and Melissa Reese on keyboards unleashed three collaborative releases. Two of these were massive boxed sets where all three got equally artist billing whereas the third one is only attributed to BUCKETHEAD and BRAIN since it doesn’t feature Melissa Reese despite it fitting in with the other “Kind Regards” boxed sets. The album titled BRAIN AS HAMENOODLE is yet another experimental album that focuses on minimalistic bass and drums. I have no idea what the title refers to although i suspect it has something to do with the fact that previous albums were titled “Chicken Noodles” and the HAM part refers to Brain’s personality in some way. This is pure speculation.

The album starts out with some girl uttering gibberish that ends with the term HAMENOODLE and then the funk session begins. This whole album is basically BUCKETHEAD slapping away on the bass and BRAIN pounding on the drums. Surprisingly despite the limited instrumentation this one has a lot of differing styles. While the opening “Meet Hamen” has a clear funk vibe, the following “Brad P” is more laid back with a slow groovin’ bass that lets the percussion to have a hyperactive spastic attack. All in all this one reminds a bit more of the band Ruins only more on valium and without the zeuhl. After all that band has done many albums with nothing more than bass and drums and constantly finds new ways to invent that sound. Unlike that band there are no vocals to be found here. Only progressive rock meets funk workouts where some segments work better than others.

The comparison to Ruins is more than just a fleeting feeling. The extended jams that range from calm and placid to full-on freak outs is exactly the kind of freaky stuff that Tatsuya Yoshida would come up with. This album allows BUCKETHEAD to fully raise his freak flag on the bass and he nails it doing the craziest things as he does on guitars. BRAIN is equally competent on the drum set and is a master of changing things up. He has been rather reserved on many of his collaboration albums but on this one he really lets loose with a nonstop series of rhythmic assaults that seamlessly meld with the bass. While this isn’t quite energetic enough to be considered metal there are energized moments that pass as heavy rock but for the most part this one remains in funk rock mode with other excursions into the avant-garde and beyond. Better than it sounds but not the kind of stuff i’m going to seek out many repeat listens either. Unlike a typical Ruins album, it doesn’t quite have the zany zeal and over-the-top aesthetics that make their albums so much fun.

BUCKETHEAD Spinal Clock

Album · 2010 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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For his second release of 2010, BH went a totally new direction with his 28th album SPINAL CLOCK which has been purported to refer to the chicken lover’s back injury that occurred earlier in the same year of release. This album is unlike anything else in BH’s vast canon and is the beginning of BH becoming a one-man show. All nine tracks are basically avant-garde banjo tracks although BH also includes guitar, bass and percussion and handles all musical duties solo. This was also the beginning of his artist direct to fan phase where he only issued 300 personally signed copies and then by popular demand extended that to 500 however, the album has never been released and is another case of U-toob being your best friend.

“Lafayette’s Landing” begins with a droning buzz that sounds like a progressive electronic album is in the works. It slowly ratchets up the brooding atmosphere when finally a banjo emerges after an established bass line leads the way. This is some seriously slow moving activity here as the bass line gently thumps away and the banjo intermittently plucks out a lick or two and then vanishes into the darkness. Likewise “Whale On This” follows suit with a heady strange minimalism and extends on for almost 10 minutes by basically just shifting from weird to classical tune riffs to even Americana folk but it all seems rather pointless as if this were nothing more than trying out an instrument in the music store to test its playing ability. In between these snippets is often just noisy percussive nothingness that ruins any sort of flow.

This one is fairly disappointing because i would’ve hoped that some banjo music could be taken to unthinkable arenas in the chicken lover’s hands but this one is basically alternates between droning pulses of repetitive bass lines and random parades of sounds that include periods of percussion, bouts of silence and other non-linear types of sound delivery. I’m pretty opened minded and crave BUCKETHEAD’s experimental albums more than anyone but this one is not executed very well at all. Yeah, it sounds like one of those pointillistic type albums that reminds me of Karlheinz Stockhausen in many ways but this one is so minimalistic as to be rendered fairly pointless and devoid of any listening pleasure. Nice try, BH but this one will surely go down as one of your most bungled efforts. Even the the spastic banjo licks and nice melodic meandering at the end of “Spinal Cracker” are too little too late. Recommended only if you want weird for weird’s sake with nothing tangible to grasp.

BUCKETHEAD Shadows Between the Sky

Album · 2010 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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The year 2010 was a pivotal one in the twenty year career of the bizarre entity known as BUCKETHEAD. As the naughts proceeded Mr. Chicken Lover began releasing more and more albums under his own moniker with four being released in 2009. The very next year he would through this prolificacy explode as he would he would not only release three albums but also release an innocent little untitled album that was also known as “Happy Holidays From Buckethead” around Christmas time as a limited edition but unknowingly would launch the entire Pike series to follow. SHADOWS BETWEEN THE SKY, his 27th album is the first of the year and after a couple of strange avant-garde xenochrony type releases, BH reverts back to the same style as “A Real Diamond In The Rough.” Like most of the albums released in this period, BH is joined by Dan Monti on bass and drum programming with Monti and Albert handling the production duties.

This is another fairly mellow album that could be compared to the “Colma” album of 1998. It is primarily constructed with clean guitar riffs, bass and percussion. Unlike previous albums of its ilk, this one has traces of flamenco as heard on the title track and more energetic percussive outbursts as well giving it more vim and vigor than other examples of BH’s mellow musical journeys. While there are some great dark tracks like the slowcore “City Of Woe” which almost sounds like a spaghetti western that has been thawing after a cryogenic deepfreeze, many tracks such as “Rim Of The World” and “Sea Wall” are pretty much the mellow BH by the numbers routine with somewhat nonchalant clean guitar melodies that sort of have a verse / chorus structure and offer really nothing new in the vast BH palette.

“Sled Ride” is pretty cool as it is more upbeat with echoey guitar riffs, a nice atmospheric haze softening it out with energetic drums that offer more than a lazy march to the melody type of scenario. “Scenario” is proof that a truck can be mellow and still interesting as it has variations in its development and has nice riffs, echo effects and overall production dynamics. It is neither showy nor energetic but has captured the spirit of what it’s trying to accomplish. Overall SHADOWS BETWEEN THE SKY is a mixed bag for me. There are some decent tracks but there are just as many okay but not outstanding ones. It’s not a bad album to throw on when you’re in a mellower sort of mood and fans of BH’s slower material will love this one a lot more than i do but i have to admit that for his mellower albums that this one is decent if not consistent.

BUCKETHEAD Needle in a Slunk Stack

Album · 2009 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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File under: loony bin weirdo music - the sequel (add the metal please)

On his 26th album and 4th and final of 2009, the chicken lover known as BUCKETHEAD did something rare and followed up one style of an album with another of the same. NEEDLE IN A SLUNK STACK (derived from the famous phrase ‘needle in a haystack’) directly follows in the predecessor “Forensic Follies” footsteps and once again utilizes xenochrony using recycled samples from previous releases, however unlike the “Follies,” this one includes original drum tracks unlike the recycled percussion. The individual tracks are listed on Wikipedia for which albums they borrow their elements from but the lion’s share come from “Inbred Mountain,” “The Elephant Man’s Alarm Clock,” “Slaughterhouse On The Prairie” and “Island Of Lost Minds.” Like the last album this one features BUCKETHEAD on guitar, Dan Monti on drum programming and the painstaking production tasks performed by Monti and Albert.

Stylistically this one is actually quite different because of the fact that the percussion is totally original allowing the samples of guitars, electronica and other accoutrements to layer over the beat which allows a more free flowing style rather than the rather strangely stilted staccato flow of “Forensic Follies.” That is not to say that all that freakiness doesn’t emerge here and there but there are more periods of “normal” BH sounds! Overall this one is simply less choppy (relatively speaking) and even has full on metal attacks such as on “Carcass Cable” on all the way through it is entirety which while the guitar riffs are recycled contain enough heft to create decent head banging tracks. To make this one work differently than the previous there is a lot of effort placed on the drum programming which i have to admit is handled quite beautifully with intricately precise time changes that are incredibly executed with full metal fury.

This is obviously one for the most adventurous of musical rollercoaster riders in BUCKETHEADLAND. These unorthodox xenochrony effects would even leave its inventor Frank Zappa wondering what kind of sonic assault he has been subjected to however like lots of bizarre avant-garde music, this one is based on an underpinning of blues riffs, funk or whatever and then dropped out leaving only the strangest elements to be heard. The metal riffing tracks are the easiest to digest but there is certainly more flow in this one. Personally i find this stuff fun to play guitar around since the “normal” elements have been subdued, it’s a free-for-all for creative improvisation sessions. While i wouldn’t expect to want to hear another album so soon after one of similar ilk, NEEDLE IN A SLUNK STACK approaches the sampling process in a totally different way which displays the different forks in the road by simply replacing the sampled percussive parts with totally original ones. Another underdog i’ve adopted in my collection of the weirdest and sickest music to be heard! Not as out there as “Forensic Follies” but not far behind :)

BUCKETHEAD Forensic Follies

Album · 2009 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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File under: loony bin weirdo music

Anyone familiar with the eclectic world of BUCKETHEAD should expect anything in his long canon of musical wonderland however even within this unusual musician’s bizarre something emerges that is even unusual for him. One of the strangest albums to be unleashed was the third album of 2009 titled FORENSIC FOLLIES which takes the avant-garde and experimental to new extremes. This was another one of those albums that was sold only at live shows and features Dan Monti on bass and drum programming as well as Monti and Albert sharing production duties which is a major part of what makes this album so unique.

The album primarily relies on xenochrony which is a studio-based technique that was invented in the 60s by Frank Zappa who learned how to extract different musical elements from previous albums and find a new way of putting them together on a future release. Perhaps the most famous of these was “Joe’s Garage” and “Thing-Fish” which were just as weird and misunderstood as FORENSIC FOLLIES seems to be. There is a whole list of which tracks were borrowed from on the Wikipedia page of this album and the list is long but it seems like the lion’s share is divided between “Island Of Lost Minds” and The Elephant Man’s Alarm Clock.”

While listening to this one, it is by no means apparent that these sounds are sampled from previous material as the sound samples are so short and staccato that it’s all rendered unrecognizable. It is however a veritable trip into the psycho-ward as this free form flow of noise, guitar bloops and bleeps, power chords and other electronic effects seems rather random yet at times patterns of sanity emerge. This album is truly experimentalism for experiment’s sake only and although i’m the biggest proponent of unleashed creativity flowing wherever it has free rein, i’ll readily admit that this one may not have the most staying power after an initial listen.

Having said all that, FORENSIC FOLLIES has a wickedly turgid charm all its own. It’s not that it’s formless per se. There is an admirable attempt to keep a rhythmic flow going with the percussive drive whether it be from the drum programming or the methodology of stitching the samples together. There is even funky underpinnings at times. This is the kind of stuff i love throwing on when i’m in the most adventurous musical moods. This is avant-garde weirdo music like no other and for that bold and daring move i support this freak show in full glory. Basically this music isn’t meant to be made for emotional connection and earworm burrowing effects. This is for those moments when you just wanna get all freaky wit yer badass self! In that regard, this is pretty brilliant and i support this underdog 100% although i admittedly have to be in the right mindset to subject myself to this however i do have an appetite for such madness ;p

BUCKETHEAD A Real Diamond in the Rough

Album · 2009 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.02 | 2 ratings
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With the release of his 24th album and 2nd of 2009, BUCKETHEAD dedicated this one to his legal representative Stan Diamond and thus is titled A REAL DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH. Yet another album with BUCKETHEAD handling guitar duties, Bryan “Brain” Mantia on drums and Dan Monti on bass. He also handles the drum programming on some tracks. Like many of his “tribute” albums, this one is a warm sentimental collection of tracks that focus on emotion inducing stripped down melodies that are calm and reflective rather than bombastic and experimental. The album is much like earlier albums “Colma” or “Electric Tears” that take a journey into the placidity of atmospheric melodic tracks. Unlike those there a few upbeat guitar parts with heavy distortion and more energetic riffing. The production is crystal clear.

Tracks like “Dawn Appears” are as slowed down and ambient as the name suggests and have clean guitar parts, snail’s-paced tempo and very melodic developments. Others like “Separate Sky” offer more variables that add greater dynamics including more rocking out and fuzzed out feedback. “Sundial” is a nice peppy series of popping echoey guitar lines that without percussion creates an interesting effect for its short duration. “Squid Ink” relies as much on the heft of percussion as it does on the ultra clean textures of the guitar riffs and clean production techniques. “Formless Present” takes the slowing down to the ultimate level providing a sample of slow core guitar riffing while “The Return Of Captain EO” takes on a heavy bluesy rock style.

For the most part A REAL DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH is could hardly be called a rock album at all and focuses on chilled out clean guitar oriented tracks that slowly mediate rather than pulverize. There are nice tracks to be heard on this one but for me there are too many slower tracks that sound as if they could’ve been leftovers for previous albums of the similar style and even when BH rocks out, it feels purposefully held back. On top of that the album doesn’t flow to my liking as the placement of certain tracks doesn’t make sense in the big scheme of things. Fans of BH’s mellower albums will probably dig this more than i do and as i stated, there is plenty of decent material here but there also seems to be a lot of recycling going on in the creativity department as well.

BUCKETHEAD Slaughterhouse on the Prairie

Album · 2009 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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I just love some the album titles BUCKETHEAD comes up with for his less than traditional albums. On his 23rd solo release he opted to pay tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s famous book “Little House On The Prairie” and mangled it to become SLAUGHTERHOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. This one has BUCKETHEAD handling guitar while Dan Monti is along for the ride on bass and programming (i assume the drum machines are included as the drums sound pretty canned here.) The first two tracks “LeBron” and “LeBron’s Hammer” were dedicated to LeBron James’ 24th birthday and were originally free downloads. This album also introduces the term “Pike” in the track “Pumpkin Pike” thus in retrospect possibly a clue to the endless series that would debut the following year. The year 2009 saw four solo albums with SLAUGHTERHOUSE being the first and a warmup to the prolific productivity egg laying antics of the chicken lover from here on.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE is another one of those alternative metal type albums with heavy grungy guitar riffs accompanied by bass and drums. It is mostly in fast tempo and aggressively in-yer-face with plenty of BUCKETHEAD’s tricks and trinkets up his sleeves like sizzling solos, squealing licks and unorthodox riffing that take on experiment time signature deviations and are just plain weird at times. Overall SLAUGHTERHOUSE is not the most original of albums and sounds a lot like “Albino Slug” in this regard with a ton of recycled riffs from yesteryear appearing in a new packaged format. While progressive experimentalism is present as on most BH releases, this one has more by-the-numbers type of tracks and pretty much plays it safe as a nice inoffensive alt metal type of album. Some of the time sigs are cool at times though.

Like “Albino Slug,” SLAUGHTERHOUSE is a decent listen with all the tracks having distinct personalities and allowed to unfurl in their own funkiefied manner however this one has the disadvantage of sounding a little samey by the end of the playing time, however overall i like this one a bit more than “Slug,” simply because there are more interesting variations despite the timbres, tones and forcefulness remaining in the heavy alt metal zone. Favorites are “Blood Bayou” (somewhat experimental), “Don’t Use Roosts If You Raise Broilers” (more experimental) and “Robot Checkerboard” (wickedly cool experimental and funky) whereas the rest are cool but not as so. This album definitely needs more variety and is a prognosticator for the plethora of Pikes down the road that would incorporate a few killa tracks and a bunch of lesser than so. The thing that saves this album is all the weird echoey effects and fluid rhythmic drives that are surreal in many ways.

BUCKETHEAD The Dragons Of Eden (with Travis Dickerson and Brain)

Album · 2008 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Another day, another album in the BUCKETHEAD universe. Well, at least in 2008 when this one was released he was spending more time collaborating on others’ album rather than releasing his own. Technically the chicken lover only released one album “Albino Slug” under his own name that year but with the same exact line-up as that one he released THE DRAGONS OF EDEN which in this case gave equal billing to both TRAVIS DICKERSON (keyboards) and BRAIN (drums). Not credited in the billing but contributing the cello is Cameron Stone. Keeping in line with his restless eclectic nature, the chicken lover creates something unusual in his canon by tackling the jazz-fusion category with THE DRAGONS OF EDEN which from the look of the cover made me think that this might be some sort of Traditional Chinese music type of album! So wrong i was :P BTW, the album title comes from the Carl Sagan book from 1977.

THE DRAGONS OF EDEN has a rather retro 70’s funk rock meets jazz-fusion vibe accompanied by a funk metal guitar riff and a seemingly out of place lugubrious sounding cello that haunts the otherwise jocularity of the feel good funk vibe. Add to that traces of boogie woogie and other piano tinkling along with retro mellotron sounding organ runs and we are in for a somewhat familiar but also strange wild ride! All the tracks are instantly infectious as the funky jazz nature of the tracks reels you in and lets you settle into the pace of things rather quickly. Some of the keyboard runs are straight out of the Chic Corea playbook and it all sounds like an odd mishmash of a organ dominated prog brands of the 70s with Return To Forever coming to mind, however nothing gets super complex on this one as all the tracks are very light-hearted and free flowing into jam band mode. The whole affair sounds like an organic spontaneous flow of energy during a few short rehearsals so don’t expect something highly developed.

The result of all the mixing of genre styles allows a very surreal experience for this one. I can’t think of a single jazz-fusion type of album where psychedelic early 70s organs so energetically dance around the funky rhythms and guitar passages accompanied by a prominent chamber rock type of cello sound. The four musicians leapfrog around each others’ leads so gracefully and despite the music being fairly simple to grasp becomes quite complex just by certain instruments passing the baton to the next and then backing up their fellow band members. This is one of the most pleasant and even uplifting types of jazz-fusion albums i’ve ever heard. It doesn’t have a shred of technical alienation that some types of music do and on the contrary has a very warm inviting feel mostly due to the fuzzy warm organ parts that make me feel like there are fresh cupcakes at Grandma’s house! If you told me this was some unknown artist from the early 70s, i’d totally believe it but this album came out in 2008. Great retro job guys! This is a great one at sounding retro but totally original simultaneously.

BUCKETHEAD Albino Slug

Album · 2008 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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The only album to come out in 2008 under the sole moniker BUCKETHEAD although ALBINO SLUG was recorded with Dan Monti and Travis Dickerson as was “The Dragons Of Eden” (although they got artist credit on that one.) ALBINO SLUG is the 22nd solo album of the chicken lover and was originally only available for sale on tour but since has been made available through TDRS Music. To make things even more convoluted in one of the most ridiculously complex canons of the music universe, on 18 March 2009, a seven minute solo was added to the track “Forgotten Trail” when the album was released on iTunes. As of current date, the album will be re-released once again on 15 Nov 2017 it will be given a new title, new cover artwork and the tracks “Redeem Team” and “Siege Engine” will be re-recorded. Whew!

Unfortunately the packaging, rebranding and minutia of ALBINO SLUG are much more complex than the music that it contains. This is one of BUCKETHEAD’s more straight forward alternative metal type of albums with less emphasis on progressive elements, experimentation and wild frenetic unhinged episodes. For the most part this one is a by-the-numbers guitar / bass / drums affair with repetitive chord sequences and bluesy lead guitar solos over the grungy metal haze. The tracks are generally quite short with the eight minute plus “Siege Engine” being the sole exception and that easily could’ve been trimmed in half and then it still would’ve been too long as it has little variations and just coasts on a 4/4 parade of a repetitive riff. Tracks like “Pink Eye” offer a bit more variation in terms of surprises and time signature deviations but still retains an alternative metal approach. “Flee Flicker” is also a nice little unusual number with an unusual rhythm accompanied by the expected alt metal guitar and a sizzling solo.

While there are a few bona fide moments of interest on ALBINO SLUG, overall i just feel this to be a bit lazy in the BUCKETHEAD universe. While nothing is overtly horrible and unlistenable, neither is it refreshing, creative and innovative in anyway. This is simply BH’s techniques going through the recycling bin and thrown back out and recorded. At this stage before he was pumping out a gazillion albums a minute, his albums were much more varied and often generated more mood shifts. ALBINO SLUG just covers the gamut of crunchy alt metal chords with a few freaky things thrown in here and there to keep us from thinking this is an experimental Foo Fighters album or something. Good but doesn’t blow me away either. Luckily there is always another BUCKETHEAD album to check out!

BUCKETHEAD From The Coop

Album · 2008 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Technically the third “special” release of the prolific career of the eccentric BUCKETHEAD but in reality nothing more than the early demo tapes that were recorded in 1988 while a young Brian Carroll was a mere maggot of 19 years old, however even at this stage he was possessed by aliens or something and already had amassed supernatural guitar playing powers. Even on these earliest of recordings his techniques are quite developed as he callathumps down the genre highway pumping out his famous shredfests, country bluegrass pickings (covers from Lester Flat and Earl Scruggs), techno dominated guitar jams, classical meets flamenco (Tarrega covers) and good old fashioned metal and rock.

While the production is fairly primitive as to be expected from just a mere simple recorder of the era. The tracks are basically just snippets of practice sessions with only a couple reaching four minutes. This compilation was released by popular demand on CD exactly 20 years after the tracks were laid down to tape. This is definitely one for the fans who want to dig into the vaults and hear how BH had already set in motion all of the familiar styles and idiosyncrasies that had made him the freaky rock star that he would become including all those two-handed arpeggios and solos.

I certainly wouldn’t call this essential listening but for a mere collection of demos, it is obvious even at this early stage that he who wears a BUCKET on his HEAD was quite the accomplished musician already seamlessly fusing funk with rock, electronica with jazz, classical with flamenco and the avant-garde with the OMG! A very worthwhile listen indeed. BH handles all guitar, bass and drum machine duties. Many of the ideas presented here will be quite recognizable for anyone who has sampled even a fraction of the BH canon. Nothing will come as a shock except how good he was at a young age.

BUCKETHEAD Chicken Noodles II (with Travis Dickerson)

Album · 2007 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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So yummy is one edition of CHICKEN NOODLES that another was in store! Yep, BUCKETHEAD and his partner in crime TRAVIS DICKERSON hooked up for yet another free-stylin’ session of guitar and keyboard improvs in full jam form for another battle of the blues and jazz. Basically what we get here is DICKERSON making his Fender Rhodes Piano while BUCKETHEAD adds his jazzy clean guitar workouts. The album is much like the first edition only the tracks are slightly more energized as they jam on to infinity. There is a veritable 60s retro vibe going on as it reminds me of those extended instrumental passages in The Doors albums.

So what we get is a series of melodies that are either initiated by DICKERSON’s keyboards or taken by the horns via the guitar route. The tracks vary in tempo and style but are connected in timbre and volume dynamics. There’s a nice warm feel to the jams as they are clearly pouring their hearts and souls into the music and not worried about creating too slick of a final product. The minimalism allows them to focus on the melodies at hand and these two veterans pull it off with style and grace like pros. While some of the tracks are short, “Concentric Motion” and “Oyster Crackers” clock in at over nine friggin’ minutes! These are the tracks that possibly outstay their welcome a bit but when all is said and done, this is one of those nice gentle albums that plays in the background while you engage in some other activity.

Given the nature of the music, i wouldn’t call this stuff essential by any means however it is certainly well played and engaging in doses of full attentiveness but mostly i find this to be great supplemental music in the chicken lover’s vast canon of craziness. While guitar and piano outburst can occur from time to time, this is pretty much an egalitarian romp through jamsville while melodic counterpoints are simply allowed to dance around together like gin fueled hillbillies in Appalachian dreams. Nothing to take seriously here, just nice jam sessions that carry on for various amounts of time. Not my favorite BH release by any means but certainly an entertaining listen if not exactly essential.

MARILYN MANSON Mechanical Animals

Album · 1998 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 3.71 | 31 ratings
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With an album cover displaying a disturbed creature looking like the love child gone wrong of a grey alien and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) from the X-men movies, MARILYN MANSON (the man) steered MARILYN MANSON (the band) into strangely surreal territories after blowing their wad with the apocalyptic visions of their previous album “Antichrist Superstar” which was in reality the culmination of a trilogy released in reverse order. Did anyone not tell you these guys were weird? The band’s third studio MECHANICAL ANIMALS finds itself neatly tucked between the three albums that make up the rock opera and either way ends up at #2! Thematically speaking no one could have figured out the storyline at the time of release and probably no one cared but musically the band takes on the totally different realm of glam rock mixed with the usual goth tinged industrial electronica, ominous nihilistic melancholy along with the Nine Inch Nails guitar oomf only not magnified to extreme metal proportions. The result of this shift is a dramatic change in style and mood and finds the album perfectly exemplifying the theme of the Bowie-esque (think Ziggy Stardust) androgynous Omēga becoming addicted to drugs and fame after coming to Earth and turning into a rock star.

Everything about MECHANICAL ANIMALS sounds, well MECHANICAL actually. The album begins with the valium space flair feeling “Great Big White World” which finds Portishead type downtempo type beats accompanied by electronic atmospheres that are eerie and utterly detached from reality. The guitars are tuned to a twangy echo with the usual catchy glam pop type of melodies that MANSON crafts so well and are instantly gratifying. “The Dope Show” song and video are the perfect anecdote for this tale of shedding the dark and finding ways of breaking through the detached drug addictions that fame and fortune brought Omēga and his band and how they ended up becoming trapped into the cycles of consumerism, narcissism, addiction and ultimately detached surrender. The video likewise shows a shocking genderless figure struggling to maintain sanity in the artificial world that has seeped into every aspect of its existence. The slower tracks bring out strong hints of 70s Queen and Bowie with Pink Floyd space rock effects to heighten the atmospheres while the heavier tracks such as “Rock Is Dead” retains the perfect holy trinity of Nine Inch Nails bombast, Prodigy laden big beat electronica and MANSON’s predilection of Alice Cooper style shock rock only tinged with a gothic flair reminiscent of Bauhaus or The Cure.

MECHANICAL ANIMALS is a woefully misunderstood album and one that i admittedly lagged into accepting in my own musical world. After the bombast and pomp of “Antichrist Superstar,” the dopey mope of MECHANICAL ANIMALS came as the undesired antithesis of the heavy industrial metal sound that preceded. This album must be taken in context of the story at hand however upon first listen i had zero idea that a context was to be had. I just didn’t like it. Over time this album has grown on me and while some deem it MANSON’s best and some the worst, i personally find it no better or worse than its predecessor and should be judged on its own merits and not in relation to the albums that bookmark it. It is clearly an anomaly in the MANSON canon and one that he has admittedly refrained from repeating but the mood, imagery and theme of the album are perfectly suited for the overarching story at hand. However like every MANSON album, much like the opposing dichotomy of the name that graces them, there are moments of utter brilliance and likewise moments of extreme mediocrity.

Musically speaking, MECHANICAL ANIMALS is a very catchy, groovy industrial rock type of album but there are few tracks that rub me the wrong way. Slow burners such as “The Speed Of Pain” are a little sleepy and melodically bland with little payoff and some like the single “I Don’t Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)” are a little too close to the Bowie playbook and have a bass line far too close to Bowie’s “Fame” and the authenticity of the track eschews me as it resides far too close to its influence for my liking. Overall MECHANICAL ANIMALS is another excellent album from MARILYN MANSON and one of the last consistently good ones to be honest. The tracks are the perfect 90s angsty anthems with all the industrial heft and electronica wizardry frosting every cadence and stanza. A slow burner in my world but one that has finally turned up the heat and boiled down into a consistently interesting listen minus the few flaws that still rub me the wrong way.

SEPTICFLESH Codex Omega

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.95 | 3 ratings
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As the Greek economy continues to crumble into the eternal fires of Hades threatening to take down the entire European Union in its wake, a few signs of life still resonate from the fertile Hellenic soils amongst the olive stomping ceremonies and the esoteric speeches of Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis explaining in great detail how in vivid detail of how we’re all just plain fucked. There is no doubt that extreme metal bands were ahead of this umpteenth wave of eternal doom and pessimism on the nature of humanity’s utter stupidity and some such as Greek’s own SEPTICFLESH have constructed a soundtrack or two in its honor even in the most remote nooks and crannies of this here global village.

Although the list of symphonic death metal bands isn’t huge ( i think the list only includes Aeternam, Arch Of Hell, Atrocity, Brymir, Dark Lunacy, Dawn Of Tears, Depressed Mode, Dissonance In Majesty, Dominia, Empyrean, Eternal Tears Of Sorrow, Ex Duo, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Gorgon, Hollenthon, Inactive Messiah, Irreversible Mechanism, Kalisia, Karlahan, Mayan, Meadow’s End, Mechina, Odes Of Ecstasy, Ouroboros, Persefone, Red Descending, The Monolith Deathcult, SEPTICFLESH, Serenity In Murder, Shade Empire, Sidious, Skyfire, Waltari, Whispered, Whorlion, Wintersun, Vesania, Xerath ) because of the short time it has had to branch off of its parent death metal world, SEPTICFLESH was well ahead of this game in the field of having incorporated symphonic touches to their extreme metal passions all the way back on their second album “Έσοπτρον” in 1995.

Since then the band has dipped in and out of the symphonic atmospheric world of metal and opted for death doom or Gothic metal at times but starting with 2003’s “Sumerian Daemons,” the band latched onto a symphonic death metal sound all their own. Whereas some of the aforementioned bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse for example went for a brutal death metal approach with a philharmonic aggressiveness to back it up, SEPTICFLESH went for a more traditional death metal sound with an orchestra to primarily add atmospheric touches. Following three years after their tenacious symphonic taste of bombast “Titan,” the Greeksters conjure up another dose of high octane fueled death metal meets a full orchestra on their 10th studio album CODEX OMEGA which pretty much continues down the path of full return without much to add, however when the elements of impending doom lifted so gracefully by the Czech Republic’s FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague, gosh the apocalypse just doesn’t seem so bad!

SEPTICFLESH are masters of codifying the opposing forces of bombastic death metal and lush symphonic classical music into allies which united somehow bring a form of musical harmony to the universe. Stylistically CODEX EFFECT isn’t much different than the previous offering “Titan.” Both contain exquisitely hideous cover art, death metal bombast punctuated by the charismatic growls (and clean vocal declarations) of Spiros Antoniou and death metal riffing and percussive blastbeats that could conjure up ALLLL the mosh pitting demons of the world. They also contain the most sensual atmospheric symphonic effects possible even accompanied by a complete choir that despite existing on polar opposites of the musical spectrum somehow perform the great dance together although both musical realities are in reality subordinate to the nexus of Antoniou’s beastly and charismatic domination.

However, despite the similarities between CODEX EFFECT and “Titan,” there remains one fundamental difference. That being that despite everything “Titan” had going for it, it was lacking in the most basic prerequisite of all, namely interesting compositions. Apparently the band got the memo about this trivial little faux pas and decided to correct the matter in the three year gap and succeeds in creating a very listenable album indeed.

One of my main gripes with SEPTICFLESH is that they produce outstanding music that culminates on the first side of the album and then slowly fizzles out into generic forgetfulness. They seem to be the symphonic death metal version of Soundgarden who suffered a similar fate. On CODEX EFFECT, the band seems to have paid attention to the pacing of the myriad elements involved in the project in order to make an easier to follow album’s length of material. I find the material on CODEX EFFECT to be some of the best the band has ever conjured up and granted that they are merely perfecting their style rather than adding any new experimental touches, i find this to be a satisfying listen from beginning to end unlike the majority of the prior canon.

At this point SEPTICFLESH is an institutional force in the death metal world having been around for well over a quarter of a century and while some band’s peak and fizzle out and fade away into obscurity, SEPTICFLESH on the other hand takes notes on their past mistakes and opts to learn from them rather than ignoring that they existed. CODEX EFFECT shows the band on top of their game with not only some of their best death metal hooks laid down to digital form but likewise construct some of the most conducive philharmonic shadow effects that perfectly gel with the greater groove. CODEX EFFECT is a great return to form after a rather lopsided “Titan” and a series of albums that while great initially seem to run on autopilot after several tracks in. I’m finding this to be a great comeback and a reality check in realizing the shortcomings of previous works and how they could have been better.

RUINS Ruins - Hatoba

Album · 1994 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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While the unhinged drummer Tatsuya Yoshida is often referred to as the Japanese version of Christian Vander for his avant-garde crazed and adrenaline fueled take on Magma's zeuhl contributions to the musical world, on this particular early collection of recordings (1991 - 1993) where he hooked up with experimental and psychedelic noise rocker Omoide Hatoba, he created a very, very strange and bizarre album that will surely leave anyone who dares to enter these realms with the lingering question of if most of this could actually be called music! While zeuhl rhythms dominate the majority of RUINS releases, on this one it is the pure essence of noise rock laced with the extreme and utmost experimental features that could leave the uninitiated running away in sheer terror. On this release there is no doubt that RUINS (sometimes referred to as RUINZHATOVA) runs side by side with label mates the Boredoms in creating the most bizarre and extreme sonic expressions possible all the while maintaining a humorous journey through the unexpected. If you think RUINS in general produces some of the most asymmetric angular bizarreness in the experimental rock world on their "normal" albums then you really need to check out this freak-a-zoid world of the oblique and free form psychosis rock that equally eschews the norms at every step similar to the early Boredoms albums while worshipping the cult of unconventional and placing pandemonium on center stage with a crown royale gracing its riotous presence.

This album is (for the most part) a series of short attitude filled with short punk (in attitude) mode tracks that come and go rather quickly most lasting less than a minute but some reaching the unthinkable three minute mark. Sometimes some thrash metal is added, sometimes weird sound effects, but always highly unstructured musical creations that offer glimpses into the musical ward of an insane asylum but somehow always finding a glimmer of resolution. Graced with ridiculous track titles like "Macrocosmic Microcassette," "We Are All Frozen Stiff," "United States Of Stink Bug," "Geeg Geeg Geeg," the short but sweet post-punk meets avant- prog tracks that deliver all kinds of bizarre twists and turns ranging from funk guitar to chanting to heavy distorted punk / thrash guitar to acoustic psychotic folk that makes me think of Tiny Tim during an acid trip. Everything about this album is meant to be jarring as one idea simply harpoons the previous down. While not quite to the level of early Boredoms where things change by the second, this callithump of creativity at least has the decency of staying somewhat stable for enough time to grasp what is going on.

While the first 25 tracks are an interesting sonic rotisserie of one bizarre idea after another, the true test of the listener's patience comes from the very last track "Rock + 1 (Challenge Your Face)" which lasts a staggering 24 minutes and 51 seconds! This is a true shocking contrast to the in-yer-face punk fueled shorter tracks that make up the first half of the album. The last track could possibly qualify as the most unlistenable piece of, a hem, "music" ever recorded down to tape (as it was in 1991 when this was recorded). This long and surprisingly LOOOOONG track is nothing more than a totally bizarre and wild a cappella ride that has the pseudo-form of creating melodies that has many vocal parts delivering the most bizarre interpretations of monkeys, dog wining and chicken clucking. It goes on for a staggering 20 minutes adding counterpoints and occasionally bizarre and weird echo effects. It's the kind of stuff you can't believe you are hearing! After those 20 minutes, it actually does some weird instrumental things and then turns into the first track of the first album by Italian avant-garde jazz fusionists Area ("Luglio Agosto Settembre Nero")

Just when you think it will never end, it does. This album is definitely a 10 out of 10 on the experimental bizarre-omater. It challenges all notions of what music is. It disturbs the senses like an atheist at a sacred religious ritual. It is Copernicus to the Catholic Church. It's just wild. It all sounds like a fun-fueled event that was caught on tape and subsequently released to the public. Everyone on board is having a very good time as evidenced by the laughter on board. This is free form rock of the highest degree with a healthy dose of Zappa humor on board despite the desire to utterly eschew every orthodox rule of established rock ethics. This is a must hear but will hardly be something that demands repeated listening, however there is something subtly addictive to this if you are an adventurous music lover and i would highly recommend this for everyone to at least check out once. While hardly essential, it is nonetheless strangely satisfying for those seeking out the most bizarre and heterodox musical creations to be heard.

RUINS II

EP · 1987 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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RUINS released their second EP a year after the first and doubled the length by upping the time length to over 20 minutes! They also changed up their sound quite a bit. This begins totally different as it has a mix of melodic bass lines that have a rather subdued effect although the drums are chomping at the bit for a major energy explosive release. After the short opening “Human Being” which belies their true nature, the appropriately titled “Entropy” unleashes the full RUINS effect with Kimoto Kazuyoshi abusing his bass and Tatsuya Yoshida going wild on his retrospective drum kit. Both men scream and holler like animals being violated in test labs and the mix of chaotic zeuhl rhythms and avant-punk chaotic dissonance destroy the musical landscape like a tsunami erasing entire coastal villages.

The main difference between the first EP and RUINS II is that this one has more moments of reflection and contrast in the form of straight forward melodic and rhythmic intros and snippets of sanity between the free-for-all noise rock meets avant-prog and zeuhl rhythms although they are short and to the point but at least recalibrate the listener’s perception before taking the chaotic train to nowhere. The slower parts are much more in line with noise rock bands like Sonic Youth or The Jesus Lizard despite the wild and unhinged vocals but when the duo jump into the swirling eddies of brutal avant-prog they create a maelstrom of time sig tornadoes and unrelenting brutality that the listener finds difficult to believe that only two guys are creating. RUINS II is a step up from the debut in that it has more layers of sound, more diverse musical approaches and is slightly more accessible but still would be deemed extreme noise by the uninitiated who happened upon this.

Although origianally a 10 track EP, it has been released on CD with 19 extra tracks under the titled "Ruins II & 19"

RUINS Ruins

EP · 1986 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Although intended to be a power trio the Japanese band RUINS (there’s an Australian band of the same name) ended up as consisting of only two members: drummer/vocalist Tatsuya and bassist of which there have been four in the history of the band. On this debut EP that to date has only been released on 7” vinyl finds Kawamoto Hideki handling bass duties. Therefore there is no guitar to be heard but rather a cacophonous noise rock production that utilizes the Magma inspired zeuhl rhythms as inspiration but at this point these guys were into free improvisation with highly distorted bass tones, frenetic brutal prog workouts and screamed, shouted and screeched lyrics that were created in their invented language (the Magma connection runs deep).

On this short but sweet debut release that came out in 1986 they manage to cram six tracks into a 10 minute and 17 second release. The whole thing comes off as an avant-punk type of sound actually as the bass gallops so fast that it sounds like a guitar frenzy at times and some of the rhythms remind me more of a Dead Kennedys on speed than anything Christian Zander pumped out however the Magma influences are quite pronounced in the vocals even if the blatant instrumental aspects hadn’t quite conjured up the sophistication to evoke their favorite prog superstars. RUINS is the logical beginning of this band that has always been about speed, distortion and avant-bravado. This EP was never released on CD but is on YouTube and many of the tracks are on the compilation “1986-1992” however “Crisis,” “Catastrophe” and “Nocturne,” half the EP is missing. This is decent but nothing totally unexpected or overly different than their more easily obtainable 90s releases.

3 INCHES OF BLOOD Battlecry Under a Winter Sun

Album · 2002 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.48 | 6 ratings
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With heavy galloping guitar riffs right out of the 80s came Victoria, BC’s answer to 80s power metal for a new millennium leaving no influential rock unreturned and shamelessly tethering it to their underbellies to unleash the anthem metal fury of a time gone by. While heavily fortified with every New Wave Of British Heavy Metal sound possible with Maiden-esque guitar gallops, dungeon and dragon fantasies of early Dio, US power metal gusto reminding me of Brocas Helm or Manilla Road, the feisty band 3 INCHES OF BLOOD meant business taking their passion for the art to points of well…. ridiculousness!

Forming in 1999 and unleashing their debut BATTLECRY UNDER A WINTER SUN in 2002, the band quickly found a newfound niche in cleverly crafting their NWOBHM approach with the unexpected lo-fi production values and occasional demon shrieking of black metal courtesy of the duo vocal machines of Jamie Hooper who handles the demon parts and Cam Pipes who does his best intermediate version of Rob Halford and King Crimson.

The duo succeed in screaming their throats out as the duo guitar attack and bass and drum punishment tackle the epic battles in fantasy lands worshipping everything 80s epic with a more darkened image update in a punkish black metal lo-fi approach. Approaching this album left me with a less than lackluster expectation as this band seems to get little respect, is rated rather poorly and after all, hasn’t there been enough genuine metal from the 80s without a need for nostalgic retread?

Well, lo and behold i was quite surprised how easily i digested this little raucous romp through the feisty curiosos as they channeled the greats of yesteryear. While this is hardly the most original amalgamation of sounds ever composed it certainly has a decent entertainment value as it brings to mind various great bands of the past but yet doesn’t sound exactly like any of them.

Pockmarked with pummeling speed and power metal gallops, 3 INCHES OF BLOOD’s debut album is a retro stampede into the world of Orcs, chaotic thrones and blazing fires. Laced with addictive riffs and screaming dueling vocalists often rendered audibly inseparable, BATTLECRY UNDER THE WINTER SUN is a surprisingly listenable journey into the retro promised lands that deliver all the expected skeletal onslaughts and curses of lighthouse keepers.

AYREON The Source

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.36 | 13 ratings
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Metal’s artisan of ambitiousness Arjen Anthony Lucassen returns with his project AYREON taking time off from his other musical projects Star One, Guilt Machine and The Gentle Storm to embark on yet another sonic journey into the world of science fiction, where he unleashes yet another concept album that is a prequel to 2008’s “01011001” laid out in his usual monstrosity of a double album with an army of guest vocalists and musicians to play the proper roles in his larger than life metal operas. As a prequel, THE SOURCE tells the origins of the Forever which is an alien race that is a key force in the overall storyline. The two discs are separated into four Chronicles with each telling different timelines in the story. The are broken down into - Chronicle 1: The Frame, Chronicle 2: The Aligning Of The Ten, Chronicle 3: The Transmigration and Chronicle 4: The Rebirth and the album is graced with beautiful artwork, extensive liner notes and an overall packaging that goes above and beyond the call of duty for any dedicated artist. Lucassen has really been upping the bar with each and every release and shows no signs of releasing his feet from the gas pedal. His passions are ablaze and THE SOURCE displays it all in full regalia.

While AYREON is accustomed to mostly new cast members changing things up on any given album, THE SOURCE makes use of plenty of returning performers which include James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Simone Simons (Epica), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder), and Russell Allen (Symphony X), together with newcomers such as Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me), which makes a whopping total of eleven main vocalists. Add to that the extraordinary musicians involved which include Joost van den Broek (ex-After Forever) – grand piano and electric piano Mark Kelly (Marillion) – synthesizer solo on "The Dream Dissolves"Maaike Peterse (Kingfisher Sky) – cello, Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big, Racer X) – guitar solo on "Star of Sirrah,” Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, ex-Asia) – guitar solo on "Planet Y Is Alive!,”Marcel Coenen (Sun Caged) – guitar solo on "The Dream Dissolves,” Ed Warby – drums, Ben Mathot – violin, Jeroen Goossens (ex-Pater Moeskroen) – flute, wind instruments, and of course, Arjen Anthony Lucassen himself on electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, synthesizers, Hammond, Solina Strings, all other instruments. I just had to list all these performers to let it sink in, the monstrosity that this beautiful album is!

THE SOURCE incorporates more aspects of the metal world than the usual AYREON project. While most indulge in heavy doses of folk rotation with the same recurring female vocalist, an aspect that has left me a little cold in the past, this album on the other hand keeps the musical jukebox flowing and never lets one style dominate for too long. While the folk influences are ever present, the retrospective styles of the performers are in full effect with much emphasis on progressive, power and classic metal with even some excellent to Queen harmonies and some extreme metal touches as well in the excellent “Everybody Dies” that is straight out of the progressive rock playbook with classic 70s Wakeman-esque keyboards, Freddie Mercury spots and time signature breakouts run amok (amongst tons of other styles and influences). It really seems like every little detail was cogitated upon before the final release was allowed to see the light of day. The only complaint i have about this fine album is that some of the tracks on the second track outstay their welcome a however it’s a minor quibble indeed. THE SOURCE is one to be experienced as words cannot convey the sheer magnitude of its accomplishments. The works are not only a rock and metal encyclopedia in scope and style but a testament to how to write, arrange and produce an album.

It seems that Lucassen’s talents caught up to his grandiose ambitions starting with “01011001” and progressively have been becoming more refined ever since. THE SOURCE not only displays the AYREON project having tightened up all the loose ends that have always bugged me but shows a maturing and steps away from the more progressive rock world and ups the energy level by keeping the album more in heavy rock mode. THE SOURCE is the first AYREON album on the Mascot Label Group and the digital release of the albums will follow. THE SOURCE is yet another modern day AYREON album that clearly demonstrates what made the early albums so weak in comparison as one track is crafted into the next and all cast members roles are cleverly placed in the perfect sequence of things. It’s no wonder the such staunch fans are as excited for a new AYREON release as are fans foaming at the mouth for a new season of Game Of Thrones! THE SOURCE is truly a brilliantly complex yet completely accessible metal opera that eschews the long drawn out filler pieces of the band’s earlier moments. At this stage i have been indoctrinated into the AYREON fan club and look forward to the next chapter of metal sci-fi digest - AYREON style!

DYING FETUS Wrong One to Fuck With

Album · 2017 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 4.10 | 5 ratings
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Ever since the early days of death metal when Suffocation introduced an unthinkable brutal assault to the adolescent ears of the metal world, such so called brutal death metal bands have been hard pressed to keep their form of sonic assault from becoming one-dimensional in scope. Some bands such as Behemoth kept a large part of their black metal roots, some such as Nile incorporated exotic musical scales and themes to separate themselves from the pack and some such as Maryland’s DYING FETUS chose to keep their old school death metal sound as their template and not only up the brutality but add elements of technical guitar wizardry and slamming deathgrind elements as well. While many brutal death metal bands struggle to find new sources of inspiration, DYING FETUS effortlessly continues to hone their sound well into the 21st century more than a quarter of a century after their formation. On their eighth studio album this band proves that maturity doesn’t necessarily equate a single shred of compromise or stagnation. In fact despite being firmly fixed into the signature sound that the band has been evolving since the beginning, WRONG ONE TO FUCK WITH is one of their most varied and deliberately in your face albums just dripping in attitudinal blood like freshly slaughtered convents of forcefully raped nuns.

The fiery opener “Fixated On Devastation” is ferociously fueled and chomping at the bit to unleash the most headache inducing music possible which perfectly demonstrates the modern DYING FETUS in full fucking glory. Utilizing the neoclassical guitar wankery as introduced by Necrophagist into the death metal world, guitarist and vocalist John Gallagher deftly sets the fretboard on fire with finger breaking face melters that would seem more at home on an Yngwie Malmsteem recording but seamlessly melds them into the chunky down-tuned death metal riffing that trigger the incredible bass plucking skills of Sean Beasley to match his beyond caffeinated march into the sonic battlefields of ararchic distortion disciplined into groove metal oscillations and pummeling frenetic time signature freakouts. Of course, the true star of this show is from the extradorinaiy energetic and beyond human skin abuse of drummer Trey Williams who is the prime mover and shaker who has lifted DYING FETUS into a new level of drum abuse and brutality in this latter phase of their career. His amazingly blast beats, double kicks and drum roll changes at a million miles per second leave me to wonder how many drum sticks and other equipment were sacrificed in the recording process!

While some bands are all about experimentation and evolving their sounds to new levels of progressiveness, DYING FETUS is happy to only subtly change their sound on any given album in effect sticking to what they know best and what they perform with ease, namely some of the most wickedly brutal death metal that the world has to offer. While some DYING FETUS albums leave me leaving a little meh by the time i get to the end of an album 9even the shorter ones), WRONG ONE TO FUCK WITH delivers a plethora of satisfying hook-laden compositions that incorporate the expected frenetic slam riffing, ferocious breakdowns complete with all those pig squeal guitar licks not to mention the neoclassical lightning guitar wizardry guitar solos that are used judiciously and erupt without notice. In addition, Gallagher’s vocals have never sounded more tortured like a sodomized with ice picks Cookie Monster and spews out some of the most vile political disdain the band has ever regurgitated all wrapped up with groove, attitude and in full fucking ferocious monstrosity.

Personally i much prefer the newer releases of DYING FETUS as they take all the band’s history and compile it into a much more satisfying unit not only offering a taste of the old school death metal world from whence they emerged but effortlessly ups the ante not only in the school of skill set and musical maestrohood but engages the most modern production techniques to create a crisp and clean sound without sounding overproduced and sanitized in any way shape or form. WRONG ONE TO FUCK WITH is an excellent brutal death metal album that while clocking in at nearly an hour’s length making it the band’s longest to date never gets fucking boring for one bit. Not to mention it doesn’t resort to any sort of energetic slowdown. This is adrenaline fueled brutal death metal from start to finish. Like all music from this band, it revs me up and makes me wanna abort a thousand fetuses and grind them up into sausage and sell it as sustainably raised happy meat at the farmer’s market, but instead after listening to a whole hour of this i’m simply content to listen to the ringing in my ears after the pummeling punishment that this bloodthirsty and barbarous beast has beset upon my ears.

RUINS Pallasch

Album · 2000 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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And let the madness begin. Well that madness began in 1985 Japan when the overly energetic drummer and vocalist Tatsuya Yoshida (the only constant member) formed this zeuhl-gone-wild band with a single bassist. Apparently the guitarist didn't show up. The group has always simply been a duo and on this album we hear the fourth bassist of the series Sasaki Hisashi who tortures his 6-string bass like no other. This is extremely challenging music and certainly not for the faint of heart. One of the things the Japanese are great at is taking something classic from Western culture and taking it to the most extreme possible. Think of the Acid Mother's Temple and their beyond belief take on 60s psychedelia, well RUINS takes this same approach with Magma's zeuhl output of the 70s and to me this ninth album PALLASCHTOM sounds like what would happen if the noise rock / avant proggers Boredoms got together with an avant-garde extreme metal band like Psyopus or Behold...The Arctopus and really, really let loose with the Magma covers.

Think Naked City meets Magma here. Noise rock meets jazz-fusion and eclectic progressive rock. While the vocals tend to sound a lot like Christian Vander complete with squeals and recognizable Magma-esque zeuhl from classic albums, the music is on steroids. And coffee. And sugar. And speed, cocaine and then electrified. The drumming is often extreme blastbeats comparable to the absolute most extreme forms of metal. The time sigs are strangely odd- metered and there is so much start / stop time shifts that only the most determined can keep up with this sonic assault to the senses. Towards the end of this release are three cute little medleys that include different riffs from progressive rocks classics as well as classical music. This is my very first RUINS album but i am a glutton for this kind of punishment so it won't be my last. Don't expect anything remotely cute and fuzzy here. This is a pummeling hour's ride of the most intense speed-fest ever recorded with the most challenging time sigs possible. The vocals try to keep some melody in it all but it is akin to free improvisational jazz where every sound is on its own screaming tangent. Complexity for complexities sake. Noisy as hell because it can be done. Think of what you can imagine progressive punk doing Magma covers would sound like. Yeah, i love it!

VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) Earache: World's Shortest Album

Album · 2012 · Grindcore
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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You ever wonder what the world’s shortest album is? It’s this muthafucker and it’s only 1:27 in length and showcases some of the shortest tracks in the Earache Records catalogue. Grindcore at its core. Ideal for tweakers and those with restless ear syndrome. FUCKING RA-A-A-A-A-D!!!! Enjoy or not….. Napalm Death, Wormrot, Brutal Truth, Anal Cunt, Lawnmower Deth, Pain Killer and Insect Warfare exploding like warehouses of fireworks that somebody “accidently” set ablaze! OOOOOO - eeeeeee, mama :O

This site is making me write 100 words for a review for an album that is fucking one minute and twenty seven seconds long, so here cums the space filler - FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK. Is this 100 words yet?

MORDOR Odes

Demo · 1991 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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With a name like MORDOR which depicts the fiery aftermath of volcanic eruptions and steaming pits of lava rendering nothing conducive to lifeforms, it’s no wonder that well over a dozen metal bands from around the world have claimed this band name as their own. However only one of these bands can lay claims to being the first to create a hybrid of musical forms that would later be considered by many to be the first example of what would later be tagged funeral doom metal. This MORDOR arose in Lausanne, Switzerland out of the ashes of the black metal band Ärog which existed from 1987-90 never having released a single piece of their work. After a falling out with the drummer, the remaining duo of Dam Gomhory (vocals, keyboards, drum programming) and Scorh Anyroth (vocals, guitars, effects) set out to create some of the most despondent and depressive music ever recorded.

MORDOR released only two demos, ODES in 1991 and “Csejthe” in 1992 and then both together as a compilation shortly thereafter with one two-track EP emerging two years later. While these demos were released originally on cassette, like many underground artists of the era they would eventually find their way onto CD releases with bonus tracks. While emerging more out of the black metal lineage of the underground scene rather than doom metal itself, MORDOR nonetheless found the perfect marriage of the doom laden depressive atmosphere which took the snail-paced tempos to new extremes. Those attributes coupled with the droning chord distortions that reverberate to infinity and despairing tortured vocalized agony ensured only the most hopeless and nightmarish of sonicscapes to be experienced at the time.

ODES was only a demo but still clocks in just a couple minutes or so shy of the hour mark with only three tracks. The first and last clock in at over the 20 minute mark with the middle just shy of a mere ten. Although ODES qualifies as funeral doom metal with its dirge-like dissonance and nonchalant percussive march into oblivion, the elements of drone metal were hot on the heels of Earth were also on full display however the vocals are more of the black metal ilk sounding something like Mayhem on valium at times. The atmospheric dark ambience also brings Burzum’s later work to mind but these three tracks are far more devastating to the human psyche than anything Varg Vikernes could ever conjure up.

The three tracks have distinct flavors despite creeping out of the digestive pits of dismay, despair and utter mortification. “Dark Throne Of Blasphemous Evil” lives up to its title with punishing undulations of creepy dark synthesized terror in sync with lo-fi down tuned distortion doggedly eking out every possible second of sustainability. Moans of anguish beset the psyche while dirging drumbeats intersperse the dread while sonic frequencies add syrupy slow musical scales that seduce the spirits to commit vile and repugnant acts of horror. “The Great Kat Is God” shockingly begins as a Mozart piece and then finds the melody snuffed out by an oscillating synth and slightly more upbeat percussion. The vocals are more sung on this one but just as tortured and demented. This one has a slight guitar riff that recurs. “Lamentations For Corinne” provide a funeral organ riff as the marching drumbeat slowly ascends from the underworld. A guitar lick slowly ratchets up the tension, first with a melody and then into utter chaos while dungeon synth keyboard dirges emerge from nowhere and then fall into oblivion. At over 25 minutes in length the track builds up to the emotional breaking point.

Recommended for those who love to investigate the origins of the funeral doom metal sound and who crave the lo-fi errancy of the metal underground. The tortured soundscapes evoke the most inhospitable lower strata of the metal universe where melody is twisted and tortured into obsequious slaves to uphold the tyranny of torment and to crucify and extinguish all hope. The atmospheric black metal aspects are far superior to the likes of Burzum or wannabe followers. MORDOR successfully interpreted the fiery hellish landscapes of the J.R.R.. Tolkien universe into nail biting sonic reality. While funeral doom metal, atmospheric black metal and drone metal would quickly all splinter off into their own self-regulated subgenera within the greater metal universe, MORDOR display on this early demo the crossroads where they once all gathered together with the same goal of creating the utmost minimalistic melancholy that the world would most like never even hear. Scary stuff this one.

GOJIRA Terra Incognita

Album · 2001 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.20 | 14 ratings
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After spending the latter half of the 90s beginning with their formation as Godzilla, this band from Bordeaux, France changed their name to the Japanese romaji pronunciation of Godzilla which became GOJIRA just before the release of their debut album TERRA INCOGNITA (Latin for “unknown land”) in 2001. While the band was founded by brothers Joe (vocals, guitars) and Mario Duplantier (drums) along with Christian Andrea (lead guitarist) and Alexandre Cornilon (bass), Cornion would be replaced by Jean-Michel Labadie before the first album which has been the same lineup to the present day. While these guys began their journey as a rather run-of-the-mill death metal band with some groove and alternative elements, around the turn of the millennium the floodgates opened and they began adding more progressive and experimental elements to the mix and by the time they debuted their first album, they had acquired a rather unique style in the crowded world of extreme metal.

While still Godzilla, the band cranked out several demos that clearly showed their ties to the thrash metal world of early Metallica, the groove metal world of Pantera and the early thrash likings of Slayer and Sepultura. Somewhere around the time of the name change to GOJIRA though, something happened with the addition of Labadie and the band found an effectively unique chemistry which allowed them to hone their craft rather quickly. TERRA INCOGNITA expands beyond the Morbid Angel death metal with thrash and groove elements and adds alternative, some industrial and even enters progressive metal territory although on this debut they would not be fully ripe in that department for a couple more albums. Despite the lack thereof in comparison to future releases however there are many signs of unorthodox compositional constructs, interesting time signature changes and playful polyrhythms laced with tempo shifts and unexpected deviations from the norm.

While later more progressive albums such as “From Mars To Sirius” embark on highly progressive workouts wrapped up in a cloak of conceptual storytelling, TERRA INCOGNITA is more of a collection of extreme art metal tracks that are often stylistically unrelated but nevertheless provide glimpses into the expanding progressive tentacles reaching out in myriad directions. Tracks vary in style and approach but crunchy alternative metal riffing in tandem with death metal blastbeat drum abuse is a common strategy for eking out the extreme aggressive fury that GOJIRA so deftly crafts into metal magic none of which is absent on album number one. TERRA INCOGNITA is laced with addictive guitar riffs that are repetitive in nature but vary distinctly from one track with some being bantering bass lines and others registering high in the upper treble range. The bass often provides a groovy counterpoint to the guitar riffing and Mario Duplantier’s drumming skills are of the highest magnitude as he attacks the skins in a multitude of playing styles ranging from the straight forward metal beat to full-fledged jazz infused technical workouts.

While Joe Duplantier’s vocals typically are utilized in the growly death metal style, he occasionally contrasts with clean vocals as well as semi-spoken segments. I seem to be on the opposite side of the fence than most regarding GOJIRA’s under appreciated debut release TERRA INCOGNITA. True that it is not as sophisticated as the more illustrious masterpieces that would follow but taken on its own, this is one extremely tight unit of one brilliant track after another. There is a more freeform “anything goes” approach to TERRA INCOGNITA. There is the instrumental workout on “04” which takes a siesta away from the death metal brutality and creates a counterpoint workout on strings (as well as other ambient breaks), there is the Korn-esque nu metal sound heard on “Blow Me Away You(NIVERSE)” as well the strange hypno-space trance interlude of “5988 Trillions De Tonnes.” Also on board is the strange alternative / thrash riffing hybridization of “Space Time” and bizarre guitar licks that begin tracks such as “On The B.O.T.A.” GOJIRA really knew how to mix and match various metal elements that leave you wondering exactly what’s going on. While this is death metal at its core, it is so much more varied than the average band in the genre. Perhaps too weird for the uninitiated but if you approach this more as extreme death art metal than you would be on the right track. I find this one to be underrated and misunderstood. Excellent debut by this one of a kind band from France! I really love listening to this one.

ESOTERIC Epistemological Despondency

Album · 1994 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 4.40 | 8 ratings
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SURREAL METAL 101

There were some bands that jumped on the bandwagon of a certain trend and ran away with it and then there are those that knew exactly what they wanted from very start. Birmingham, England’s ESOTERIC are amongst the latter as they quickly distinguished themselves from the ever expanding doom metal universe into the extreme melancholy of the early funeral doom metal world. Along with early pioneers Thergothan, Skepticism, Funeral and Mournful Congregation, ESOTERIC excelled in the total submersion into the ultimate depressive atmospheric snail-paced dirge metal that ceased to exist in the physical world and opted to sublimate into a more hallucinogenic state of mind where echoey power chords take on droning characteristic accompanied by ethereal and wickedly depressive ambience to create some of the most surreal metal ever to exist.

ESOTERIC meant business as their career began and has revolved around slow and doom-laden metal that takes its sweet time to unfold its freeze-dried fury around you only to captivate your soul and entrancify your spirit into a phantasmic surrender of the will. Even with the demo “Esoteric Emotions - The Death Of Ignorance” the Birmingham band was all about sustaining a depressive atmosphere for over an hour. The demo clocked in at an astounding 82 minutes and was the prognosticator of entire career as every ESOTERIC album since has been a double CD fortified with endless drifting action of depressive doom metal action that is the equivalent to a sonic Salvador Dalí copulating with the early potentials of Black Sabbath and the countless emulators that emerged in their wake.

EPISTEMOLOGICAL DESPONDENCY is the debut album of ESOTERIC which appeared after their demo tape made a huge impression on the personal at Aesthetic Death Records who realized quite quickly that they had a rather unique musical entity on their radar. After all the legalities ensued, ESOTERIC recorded their debut album and set out to create one of the weirdest and most demanding albums of the mid-90s. While based in the world of doom metal mostly due to their molasses flowing guitar riffs and distortion to forever techniques, ESOTERIC is somewhat of a hybrid between the early 90s doom metal of Skepticism, Evoken and Pantheist cross-pollinating with some sort of sluggish ambient electronic band such as Coil with valium-esque synthesizer laden keyboard riffs that take the term “downers” to a whole new level.

ESOTERIC has been quite exemplary in their ability to tweak their sound ever-so-slightly on album after album but they proved themselves worthy quite well even on this gem of a debut that not only immediately separates them from the pack of death doom and funeral doom progenerators but also displays an emotional depth of character that few were capable of experiencing during the day of production. EPISTEMOLOGICAL DESPONDENCY is like no other of the day. This album is literally capable of causing extreme depression and suicidal thoughts much like legal drugs that have been promoted since. Personally i have no need for such chemical mind inducing intruders when such sonic therapy such as this exists. Literally nothing else before or since can compare to ESOTERIC’s bizarre and surreal take on doom metal and this debut is the perfect introduction to the phantasmagoric sonic reality of this strange band. ESOTERIC is one of my all time favorite bands and this debut reminds me why that is so time and time again. Do start here!

FASTWAY All Fired Up

Album · 1984 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.98 | 4 ratings
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While many predicted FASTWAY would see its demise after the release of their debut album due to unstable lineups and shaky grounds with record companies, no one could’ve seen the success that the eponymous debut would have earned them which led them to open up for the bigwigs of the day such as Iron Maiden and AC/DC. While success had been more of instant gratification thing on the UK side of the Atlantic, it crept along at a snail’s pace in the US but finally found their just dessert. Due to the unexpected chart hitting debut album that cracked the top 40 on the Billboard charts, the record company was chomping at the bit to release a followup, so into the studio the band went to craft a new batch of heavy rockers to please the newfound fanbase. After a short reprise to recharge their batteries after a brutal and enervating tour schedule, ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke rounded up the troops to record ALL FIRED UP. While Dave King would return vocals and Jerry Shirley on drums, session bassist Mickey Feat was replaced with the full time member Charlie McCracken, former of the 70s band Taste.

ALL FIRED UP pretty much picks up in a logical manner where the debut album left off. It consists of eleven heavy rock tracks with Clarke’s signature early Motörhead guitar riff workouts along with Shirley’s percussive drum roll attacks. The compositions are based in heavy bluesy rock reminiscent of the 70s greats like Led Zeppelin and with Dave King’s vocals firing on full pistons, he once again takes the somewhat retro sound of the songs and adds a youthful turbo boosted mojo to the mix. Once again the tracks are all distinct from one another and flow rather nicely together. While most are heavy with a fast tempo living up to the band’s name, “The Stranger” and “If You Could See” have slow contemplative parts as well. After the release of ALL FIRED UP, the band continued their streak of semi-success without quite blowing up the charts but opened for Rush on their “Grace Under Pressure” tour.

Once again FASTWAY conjured up a heaping batch of heavy rock at its best. All the tracks are catchy, have that ballsy blues rock swagger and totally rock the house. Clarke seems to perform more soloing on this one and King’s vocals display an ever greater range in dynamics making him one of my favorite heavy rock vocalists of this era. While most tracks are top notch heavy rock of the 80s, a couple duds like “Hung Up On Love” and the more pure blues rock “Telephone” with dreadful lyrics like “My baby’s on the phone again….. Screamin’ and a cryin’ like an ol’ hound dog, yeh” make me wanna fuckin’ puke. However, these are the exception as the fiery opening title track, the feisty “Steal The Show” and the rest of the roster more than make ALL FIRED UP an excellent sophomore effort. Personally i prefer the debut to this by a mere smidge but this one has certainly grown on me over time. Both the first two albums are available on CD these days as a 2-for-1.

BUCKETHEAD Pho' hu'ynh Hie^p 1 / Kevin's Noodle House (with Brain)

Album · 2007 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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While BRAIN had been a significant part of the BUCKETHEAD world, he usually was a mere cast member in the footnotes but on PHO’ HU’YNH HIE^P 1 - KEVIN’S NOODLE HOUSE he found himself of equal billing under the moniker BUCKETHEAD & BRAIN. The album was released by TDRS Records along with the previous “Cyborg Slunks” and likewise retains a lot of the experimental rock meets electronica wildness.

Yet another weird and unorthodox release from the chicken lover, KEVIN’S NOODLE HOUSE is mainly a minimalist electronic album that has slow downtempo grooves with intermittent bass and a gazillion guitar effects that whiz around like loose electrons freed from the parent atom also known as free radicals. While some tracks are mostly electronically oriented with a series of bloops and bleeps with guitar frosting. Some like “Thin Crust” are guitar tracks with electronic accoutrements. The album is generally on chill mode hardly ever generating enough steam to be considered rock at all.

While there are some interesting moments if you are into the DJ electronica meets BH guitar phases, the album as a whole doesn’t really gel cohesively into much. The whole endeavor seems more like a loose collection of leftover tracks compiled into a big pile. The title is fitting as it is basically an electronic canvass for some guitar noodling. Some of the ideas heard here can also be heard on albums like “Somewhere Over The Slaughterhouse” only on the other albums the tracks are much more interesting. The minimalism makes this rather bland. Not the chicken lover’s finest hour for sure.

OSI Office Of Strategic Influence

Album · 2003 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.70 | 17 ratings
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Taking their name from the abbreviated form of the briefly engaged US government agency named OFFICE OF STRATEGIC INFLUENCE (which serves as the title of this debut album), this supergroup was the brainchild of Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos who collaborated with Kevin Moore, keyboardist and vocalist for the art rock band Chroma Key. Adding to the well known musicians on board came Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy to fill the percussionist spot and Sean Malone of Cynic to play the bass. Originally the band pursued Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree to be the vocalist but he declined leaving them to fend for themselves and adopt many of his influences without him. Although intended to be a one-off project and studio band only, OSI continued recording new albums after their debut was met with positive reviews which led the band to continue the project and release future albums.

While touted as a progressive metal band, the truth is that there is little of Dream Theater or Fate Warning influence to be found on this one. The focus of hero worship on this one is primarily limited to the likes of Porcupine Tree’s more metal ventures as heard on “In Absentia” or “Deadwing” except Kevin Moore’s vocal ability sounds more like Eric Woolfson of The Alan Parsons Project fame. Despite his refusal as lead vocalist Wilson did however contribute to the outstanding track “ShudDOWN” which is the best Porcupine Tree track not on a PT album. Overall the music on OSI’s debut is tantamount to the heavier riffing style of PT with songwriting compositions to match all painted with the art rock electronica heard on Moore’s Chroma Key project.

The fact is OSI sounds so much like Porcupine Tree that i had to scan my liner notes upon first listen to find out if this was some clandestine Steven Wilson project but other than the guest spot on one track it is clearly not. I feel the band borrowed a little too heavily from the Porcupine Tree sound and granted Steven Wilson’s sound was more than a worthy supply of inspiration, OSI tries a little too hard to fully replicate it leaving them with very little original sound of their own. The fact that a Fates Warning and Dream Theater combo effect is totally absent is rather disappointing. The project could’ve been a much better one if they had. While i can’t say i don’t enjoy listening to this one as the tracks are catchy, sombre and excellently produced, the combo effect of the PT influences reigning supreme with the lackluster vocal talents of Moore leaves me slightly cold on this one. For those who care less about blatant ripoffs of other’s signature sounds, you might like this more than i do.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 272 - Coniunctio

Album · 2017 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 272 - Coninctio / 29th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains only one track / Clocks in at 28 minutes 25 seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead 3: >

As 2017 rolls along, the chicken lover named BUCKETHEAD continues to unleash one new edition of his PIKE series after another. While the majority of these have been based in rock, funk or metal, his dipping into electronic and ambient territory has been rather limited since 2015’s Countdown To Halloween run. However on “Pike 270 - A3” BH reminded his insatiable fans that he is quite the brilliant composer of dark electronic outside of his guitar playing prowess.

PIKE 272 - CONIUNCTIO delivers a similar electronic based palette of moods and sonic textures that all unfurl within the context of one single almost half hour track. What we get here is a long (and i mean long) uninterrupted series of what sounds like processed violins (although i’m sure they’re most likely synthesizers) with classically infused melodies that plod along on valium. Every little sound echoes a bit into infinity while the following notes properly fall into place.

I’m quite the fan of BH’s ambient line of entertainment but i find this one to be a little lackluster as it’s almost impossible to keep my focus. If there is some brilliance embedded within it’s lengthy run i’m failing to locate it. To me this sounds like any old ambient music that pretty much anyone with some recording skills could pull off with little effort.

I would qualify this one as decent background music, a soundtrack for an activity of choice and perhaps not even a bad meditation or yoga routine track but there is not a lot going on. There are no guitars, bass or drums but rather an incessant flow of synthesized swirls that simulate a nascent melody that never really develops wings and soars.

ENSLAVED Mardraum: Beyond the Within

Album · 2000 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.69 | 22 ratings
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The last decade of the 20th century saw a major split between the strains of extreme metal that had gestated into more distinct subgenre categories at the end of the 80s. By the mid 80s, black, death, doom and progressive metal were well on their way to become fully developed subgeneres splitting off from the parents at an astonishing rate like amoebas gracefully undergoing meiosis in a petri dish. While the majority of extreme metal bands were satisfied in pigeonholing themselves into one newly found subgenre or another, others couldn’t quite decide which way to proceed, so they chose more than one. The world of ENSLAVED owes a major debt to the sonic realities created by fellow Scandinavian Quorthon who under the guise of his band Bathory introduced the world to black metal and then once again moved on to the world of Viking metal which emphasized traditional Scandinavian folklore, mythology and instrumentation while eschewing the expected anti-Christian vitriol and Satanic church burning shenanigans that were plaguing the Norwegian extreme metal world in the early 90s.

Even on their debut “Vikingligr Veldi” ENSLAVED were entertaining the notion of expanding beyond the quickly ossifying expectations of subgenre conformity and although they retreated a couple steps back with their next few albums “Frost,” “Eld” and “Blodhemn” that deemphasized the progressive touches in favor of more Viking themed black metal ferocity, on their fifth album MARDRAUM - BEYOND THE WITHIN, the band had a rekindling, or more accurately explosive discharge of the creative pent up energy that was captured on their debut and was ready for prime time for a new millennium unfolding. The sonic evolution heard on MARDRAUM (Norwegian for “nightmare”) is not only crushing in its sonic bombast but pulverizes the status quo of subgenre categorization as it unapologetically incorporates the fiercest black metal ferocity with Viking metal themes that unfold seemingly accessible riffing styles into insanely complex beasts of progressiveness. The world of metal could hardly see one his coming.

With an opening that reminds more of the Cocteau Twins than the second wave of black metal, ENSLAVED were breaking the chains of sonic subjugation and unfurling their victory flag in the defeat of complacency. While “Større enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt“ may bring space pop to mind at first, it quickly delivers the old one, two punch of Ivar Bjørnson and Roy Kronheim’s blistering dual guitar abuse and while technically dishing out the same riff, the duo usher in a totally revolutionary methodology of incorporating subtle distinctions between their counterpoints and offer a sonic storm of creative interpretations. In fact every musician involved on MARDRAUM is firing on fully fueled pistons as Grutle Kjellson pounds out unbelievable bass lines while Dirge Rep unleashes his mastery of drum abuse unlike anything heard on ENSLAVED’s previous canon. MARDRAUM is in effect the heaviest album the band had done at the time and remains so to date despite offering a clairvoyant peek into the world of progressive metal that they would elucidate on future releases beginning with the followup “Monumension” which includes interludes into clean vocal folk extravaganzas as well as cleverly placed ambient wizardry. Of course the black metal raspy vocals are on full display and have never sounded as energized as they do here.

MARDRAUM can be considered a musical transubstantiation of sort in its own right for providing the bridge between the Viking themed black metal phase of ENSLAVED’s long and enduring career and the progressive black metal to occur after, but more than anything MARDRAUM proves to be a pinnacle of black metal creativity at the turn of the millennium showing ENSLAVED break away from the gravitational pull of their influences and finding the free range of musical independence which MARDRAUM displays in full regalia. Although steeped in black metal buzzsaw fury with blastbeat prowess and earache inducing decibelage, this collection of eleven tracks stampedes like a cavalry of warriors on horseback laying waste to any unfortunate bystanders in their trajectory. Personally i find the millennium turnover era of ENSLAVED to be their absolute best beginning with this final chapter of their most ferocious and aggressive stage of their career and MARDRAUM delivers all the goods in an amazing and precise manner. One of, if not my favorite ENSLAVED album.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 271 - The Squaring Of The Circle

Album · 2017 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 271 - The Squaring Of The Circle / 28th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 6 tracks / Clocks in at 29 minutes 27 seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead 3: >

“The Squaring of the Circle” (7:29) begins with clean echoey guitar and then quickly bursts into distorted guitar with bass and a lazy subordinate drumbeat. Hmmmm…. i think i’ve heard this before like a million times by now. This is basically one of those by-the-numbers generic BH tracks that repeats a few chords over and over. Adds a bluesy solo that crescendoes and alternates a few slow echoey parts. Been here. Done this. Yawn

“Osirion" (4:31) ups the tempo a bit with heavier riffs but offers a more off-kilter approach. The riffs are slightly weirdly timed with a jazzy drum beat to back them up. The bass is subordinate this time. A much more interesting track even though the tones and timbres are identical to the first track thus displaying a perfect example of it works / it don’t work that BH can often delight / frustrate within the span of a single track’s difference. It really boils down to the melodic construct as the chords aren’t quite as repetitive and this one offers a few more elements to amuse the alert

“Scalp Assail” (6:14) with an amusing title like this one would expect something a bit bizarre. Well………………………………………………………………………………………………it is a bit. Not OMG weird but the track is a bit schizofrenetic and meanders all over the place like a rollercoaster in BUCKETHEADLAND. Despite the twists and turns it’s not one of those bizarre detachments from all musical history rather it’s a ride through alternative metal riffage, progressive metal adventurism and slower parts that use that echo guitar sequence. This is a very cool track that employs all the metal mojo BH is known for with the ability to layer different time sigs in a polyphonic orchestral way despite being limited to guitar, bass and drums

“Fork” (3:03) almost sounds like an AC/DC anthem at first with power chords providing the melody but…………………………………………………………..it forkin’ turns into a forkin’ BH type riff and then forkin’ add some weird forkin’ elements such as forkin’ for fork’s sake. Rather tame by BH standards but yet has a nice forkin’ charm that captivates me. I forkin’ like it ! ¡ !

“Mosaic Silk” (4:10) is a rather mundane distorted hard rocker that has a generic riff, some chord changes and not much else. This is another one that is not very exciting and seems to have been simplified for those who don’t have a large musical vocabulary. OK but not unyawnable

“Decake" (4:00) is different as it sounds like a mystery theme. It has a bouncy theme show type riff that once joined by the metal riffs has a bizarre echoey persona. While the track structure is fairly simple it more than makes up for it with a heavy distorted palette of guitar effects. Many trademark BH riffs are here as well as effects but the overall impressive is a dark and murky mix of heavy alternative mud that exists in an alternative metal universe. Pretty cool

This one has interesting tracks except the first one. I’m constantly amazed at the chicken lover’s ridiculously large palette of musical ideas however something undetectable keeps this from being considered OMG excellent in my book. The cool elements aren’t enough to make this a great PIKE. Oh well, there’s enough here to selective check out though :o

XAVLEGBMAOFFFASSSSITIMIWOAMNDUTROABCWAPWAEIIPPOHFFFX Gore

EP · 2016 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Yet another band that caught my attention merely because of its ridiculously long name. This band is actually known as Acidic Vaginal Liquid Explosion Generated by Mass Amounts of Filthy Fecal Fisting and Sadistic Septic Syphilic Sodomy Inside the Infected Maggot Infested Womb of a Molested Nun Dying Under the Roof of a Burning Church While a Priest Watches and Ejaculates In Immense Perverse Pleasure Over His First Fresh Fetus but simply goes by XAVLEGBMAOFFFASSSSITIMIWOAMNDUTROABCWAPWAEIIPPO for short. They released their debut EP in 2016 and its titled GORE and they come from Durban, South Africa.

GORE is a short but brutally sweet 12 minute EP of headache music that mixes slam death metal and deathgrind with good old fashioned grindcore with some melodic death metal touches here and there. This is chaotic, heavy and unrelenting punk infused energy with heavily distorted guitars and bass, blastbeat drum aggression and snarling shouted vocals with a touch of pig squealing. The unrelenting pace is fast and in yer face. Surprisingly the four tracks stand out a bit and some of it reminds me of the Japanese zeuhl metal band Ruins with the noise rock type constructs. Despite a somewhat more diverse palette than more grind type acts, ultimately this one comes off as fairly average in its delivery but a worthy delivery of concentrated aggressive metal outbursts. Not bad but not memorable either.

Satisfying if you want brief spastic pyroclastic flows of metal bombast in full decibalage but not very satisfying if you seek thoughtful constructs of compositional brilliance. Beyond grindcore 101 but not quite 2.0 either. I have no idea where the silly ass name came from. This is basically a less than serious side project of Duncan Bentley (vocals) of Vulvodynia. Other noisemakers include Kris Xenopoulos and Lord Necrotic Gore Bong. LOL

MORBID ANGEL Domination

Album · 1995 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.21 | 27 ratings
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One of the most beautiful things about MORBID ANGEL is that they never stagnated in their sound despite pioneering the world of death metal and taking that final step out of the thrash world which landed them the honor of being one of the most influential death metal bands to the plaudits of the critics. Although they took the early Slayer thing and put it through the brutality blender before they emerged with their groundbreaking “Altars Of Madness,” where they churned out sonic assaults about Satanism and occult themes, they quickly became more sophisticated in not only their compositions but in their subject matter. Beginning with “Blessed Are The Sick” they evolved their lyrical content in the realms of Sumerian gods while their technical chops became ever more tight and polished without losing one little bit of the fire and fury that made them one of the most successful extreme metal bands of all the early 90s.

After cranking out three beautiful beasts of unrelenting brutality, they took a rather left field turn and began to experiment with their sound. The result was their fourth studio album DOMINATION which not only expanded their sonic palette manyfold but also saw the debut of Erik Rutan as the second guitarist / keyboardist thus making the band a quartet instead of a mere trio. This would also be David Vincent’s last album for quite some time before he would rejoin in 2004. This album is quite distinct visually speaking as it is rare to find a death metal album cover graced in green and purple. The earliest CDs came in green jewelcases and there were plans to release a “Slime Pack” but was scrapped because of the toxic slime leaking from the albums before they were ever got shipped!

DOMINATION is quite the interesting listen and shows MORBID ANGEL diversifying its sound in many different ways. The first three tracks showcase the classic death metal sound but also add a new sludgy element to the mix with slower guitar riff tempos and even less frenetic drum parts. In the composition department the guitars are more atonal, there are multiple tempo changes and break downs and there is much more emphasis on creating a dark and gloomy atmosphere instead of focusing exclusively on brutality. Of course those squealing guitar solos still emerge from nowhere and the brutal riffs are still on board but something noticeably shifted on DOMINATION. “Melting” displayed a completely new side of the band with a theatrical soundtrack like a war march through some sort of ancient siege and as far as i know is the first of its kind in the death metal world. This sort of interlude music was adopted by bands like Nile who made it a staple of Sumerian and Ancient Egyptian folklore sounds but also has been adopted by other tech death bands like Gorguts.

The influences that led to an entire career that Nile (and even for others such as Gojira) are pretty much adopted from this album and are rather apparent on tracks like “Nothing But Fear” which have complex riffing, several time signature changes and differentiations in tempo and dynamics including passages where the drumming is on blastbeat mode while the atmospheric chord changes contrast with the brutality. Basically the blueprint for Nile albums such as “Seeds Of Vengeance.” The rest of the album pretty much follows suit incorporating the expected MORBID ANGEL magic through the mix of the down-tuned darkened pummeling dual guitar riffing of Azagthoth and Rutan, Vincent’s double bass line abuse and guttural vocals with Sandoval’s blastbeat drum abuse. However with the addition of dramatic war march doom metal sequences, more atmospheric keyboard touches and unexpected detours into sludge metal means DOMINATION is the most diverse MORBID ANGEL album of the early Vincent years. Personally i also find this to be the one i find most interesting. Despite all the brutality as well as being the pioneers of the genre, the first three albums haven’t aged quite as well as i would’ve hoped. DOMINATION on the other hand has all the aggression and attitude of a quality extreme metal album without the monotony of a ceaseless fire of riffs to infinity. An under-appreciated masterpiece me thinks.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 270 - A3

Album · 2017 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 270 - A3 / 267th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 2 tracks / Clocks in at 28 minutes 50 seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead 3: >

While the artist known as BUCKETHEAD is primarily known for his experimental rock and metal styles that transcend boundaries and push limits of what human fingers are capable of performing, the chicken lover has also proven himself a master of creating some of the most horrific and creepy dark ambient soundtracks throughout his PIKE series with the bulk having been released in 2015 with the chilling countdown to Halloween PIKEs where a new album was released everyday. Since then those types of murky overcasts of demented dread have been fairly absent in the incessant releases that never cease but on PIKE 270 - A3 the chicken lover delivers yet another mystic chimera of sound that dishes out two long drawn out tracks that just miss the half hour mark

The title track “A3” is a slow and descending sonic drift into the recesses of the darkest corners of the human soul with no melody to be heard, no rhythms to keep time and no discernible rhyme and reason to the extended bouts with darkness that slowly pulsate through the sonic underworld like bioluminescent jellyfish at the mercy of the high-pressure induced currents of the oceanic abyss. So is the feel of “A3” with a dungeon synth flow of atmospheric dread followed by echoey guitar vibrato in free form plunging ever deeper into the a lightless trench with occasional energetic outbursts of vibrato run amok

“Liquid Mirror” continues the journey into strange unearthly sound fields where dark ambient synths slowly modulate in smooth yet jarring manners of articulation designed to evoke the horrors of being plunged into a dark world haunted by phantasms and poltergeists that can only be sensed but not seen. The fluidity of the pulsating flow of sound emanates from the chasms of unnerving alien auras that evoke otherworldly encounters where all relativity with reality are completely void where hitherto unthinkable forms of chemistry and physics dominate. So utterly and incomprehensible that sheer logic crumbles like sand castles under construction in a hurricane. “Liquid Mirror” is even more extreme in its utterly formlessness with eerie dripping, echoey distant guitar vibrato and haunted synth swirls that go for the jugular in ratcheting up the fear factor. Perhaps the perfect soundtrack for a stroll down an unexplored planet in another star system as strange life forms evolved in every different way possible and where every nanosecond is fraught with apprehension and trepidation

PIKE 270 - A3 is an outstanding accomplishment of dark ambient and is guaranteed to appeal to aficionados of Lustmord, Deathprod or Bohren & Der Club Of Gore. Do not listen to this alone and in the dark before you go to bed

BUCKETHEAD Pike 269 - Decaying Parchment

Album · 2017 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD (as Bucketheadland) / Pike 269 - Decaying Parchment / 26th release of 2017 / All instrumental / Contains 6 tracks / Clocks in at 32 minutes 47 seconds / everything played by Buck-buck-buckethead 3: >

“Is” (5:11) begins things with a creeping clean echoey guitar but soon ratchets up the alternative metal fixin’s as a chugga chug riff creates a hard drivin’ groove. This is one of those tracks where the hard parts alternate with the softer parts but basically repeat the same melodic chord changes. The bass is extra special here as it has a distinct sub-groove to the guitar riffs. The drumming is adequate but sounds like it could have spruced up a bit

“The Maps Inside” (8:16) begins things calmly with clean guitar parts slowly ushering in a more upbeat distorted guitar riff. After a few normal measures, it chugs out a weird off-kilter riff before getting cold feet and cooling off into an echoey clean guitar mode again. It sputters on with jittery distorted riffs and cleaner passages in a mid-tempo range but also slows down from time to time. Eventually it picks up and a bluesy solo erupts while the chord changes get stuck in a loop effect. This part extends well beyond its predictable outcome

“Wings of a Dead Moth” (4:51) ah, poor little moth, no wonder you died. This track is a CRUSHER!!! Brutal metal riffing suddenly changes into a clean circus anthem but then the heavy blistering riffs return but then a slower less distorted riff. It’s one of those seesaw songs where loud and fast plays and then softer and crazy! I like these kinds of tracks :P There are a few Van Halen type riffs (“Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love”) as well as just crazy off-kilter time sig riffs that are brutal. My favorite is the chicken clucking riffs but there are industrial metal riffs and crazed guitar solos on hyperdrive. This one is EXCELLENT!!! Creative, diverse and non-predictable!

“Pillar” (4:23) starts with a tinny guitar lick with a clucking lick and steady bass groove and cymbal action with percussion. Good mix of instruments. Pretty much an alternative metal groove track with a melody flying high through the lead guitar while a jerky riff chugs in the undergrowth. Unfolds in a rather predictable way but still sounds good and different in its approach

“Twister” (3:46) begins super chilled and echoey as a guitar slowly builds up tension with percussion and then finds a groove to latch around and creates a bouncy little distorted melody which picks up a little speed and then the treble guitar does jittery things while the bass parts stay bouncy. Kind of an overdone style in BH’s world

“Decaying Parchment” (6:20) is freakier and begins with a free form avant-garde guitar weirdness as the lead guitar goes apes.h.i.t. and gets hyperactive and bizarre. It sounds like the bass and drums live in their own world while two guitars are in their own separate universes but somehow are coming together in an unorthodox manner. Time signatures run amok despite a steady groove, sonic assaults as guitar weave around each other in mysterious ways. Cacophonous din erupting in a merry-go-round fashion. This is the type of BUCKETHEAD track i crave!

Only third and sixth tracks set me on fire. The rest are fairly overdone in the PIKE canon and like many of these, if you haven’t heard this a million times, you’ll think it sounds great but if you have then the unwarranted repetition is a little unfulfilling

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