Welcome to The Heaviest Matter of the Universe

This blog is all about me and my journey through the music world. It used to just be a metal blog where I would display my hackneyed opinions of all sorts of things. Going forward it will be chronicling all of my happenings in the music world, whether it’s album reviews, interviews, blogs about bands I do PR for, etc. you’ll learn all about my musical expeditions.

The posts here may be inconsistent at best, but that’s because I write for two other publications currently: The OurStage Magazine and Under The Gun Review.

(and yes, before you ask, my blog’s name is a tribute to and/or rip-off of the Gojira song of the same name)

Favorite Metal(ish) Albums Of 2012

‘Tis the season for year-end lists of what everyone and their dog thinks are the best albums of the past year, as well as the incredibly pretentious and elitist mindsets that come with them. I’m not going to pretend I know what’s best for anyone, but I do know that there are definitely albums I enjoyed much more than others, despite some critical flaws in some of them. My tastes can be a bit whacky at times, but I’m pretty sure that there are at least a few people out there who will be curious to know what my favorites are, so I will be sharing them.

But not here.

Instead, I’ll be doing a series of posts over at Under The Gun Review that will double as a countdown to when we’re free of the holiday hell that is the month of December.

Because they’re happening one at a time, I’ll be posting the list as it goes live day by day over at UTG in list form here.

#25: RIITTIIR by Enslaved (read it)
#24: Results by Murder Construct (read it)
#23: Awakened by As I Lay Dying (read it)
#22: Ex Lives by Every Time I Die (read it)
#21: Failed States by Propagandhi (read it)
#20: Eremita by Ihsahn (read it)
#19: Dead End Kings by Katatonia (read it)
#18: Les Voyages De L’Âme by Alcest (read it)
#17: Autotheism by The Faceless (read it)
#16: All Hail The Void by Enabler (read it)
#15: Legend by Witchcraft (read it)
#14: Death Is The Only Mortal by The Acacia Strain (read it)
#13: No Matter Where It Ends by Black Sheep Wall (read it)
#12: Book Burner by Pig Destroyer (read it)
#11: Parallax II: Future Sequence by Between The Buried And Me (read it)
#10: Monolith Of Inhumanity by Cattle Decapitation (read it)
#9: Incongruous by Beneath The Massacre (read it)
#8: All We Love We Leave Behind by Converge (read it)
#7: CVI by Royal Thunder (read it)
#6: Danza IIII: The Alpha – The Omega by The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza (read it)
#5: Hasta La Muerte by Xibalba (read it)
#4: A Flash Flood Of Color by Enter Shikari (read it)
#3: Yellow & Green by Baroness (read it)
#2: Koloss by Meshuggah (read it)
#1: L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira (read it)

Xibalba – Hasta La Muerte [Review]

There’s a saying that goes “slow and heavy wins the race” (or something like that). Southern Californian band Xibalba have definitely practiced this mantra for quite some time now, as evidenced in nearly every song they’ve released in their somewhat short history as a band. More evidence of this is provided in their forthcoming sophomore album Hasta La Muerte, being released via Southern Lord on August 14, 2012 (just one year after Southern Lord released their first album, Madre Mia Por Los Dias).

When considering a band’s relative heaviness, anyone who has listened to a considerable amount of heavy music can tell you that it’s not simply tuning down your guitars, adding lower strings, and playing lower notes. Tone, texture, and songwriting are what take low notes and turn up the density meter. Xibalba get this. Guitars churn, drums thunder, vocals roar and together they create a terrifying cacophony meant to convey pure, unadulterated intensity. And it works. Swapping between sludge/doom noise passages and pure hardcore beatdown sections with the ideal balance between loose and tight playing, Xibalba have achieved a truly oppressive level of heaviness on Hasta La Muerte, and are unrelenting when wielding such heaviness.

Unfortunately, such unrelenting heaviness has led to an album that feels a bit one-dimensional in nature. Not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re looking for anything that isn’t a blend of hardcore and sludge/doom metal to the heaviest degree you’re basically out of luck. Saved from being a disaster by songwriting and sequencing, the most interesting tracks and moments on the album are spaced out enough so that you don’t get bombarded with an overwhelming amount of sameness song after song. Hasta La Muerte is also definitely not for people who have disdain for slow-developing albums as there are a lot of slow, noisy, drone-esque sections throughout the album, especially between the meat of tracks.

Lyrically, Hasta La Muerte is incredibly real and personal, touching on a litany of grief and strife in day-to-day life. Most of the lyrical content pulls no punches, lines such as “I found peace in darkness, and comfort in solitude. There’s no love or feeling in this broken home.” clearly being designed for impact and realness. Opening the song “Stone Hearts” we get a glimpse of the best Xibalba’s lyrics have to offer: “Stone hearts are hard to break. Pound away, try to break me down. Stone hearts will never change.
Cast away, in rubble I’ll remain.”

As an album, Hasta La Muerte is monstrous. From the first drum hits and sustained guitars are a constant barrage of musical haymakers not for the weak-willed. Loud, thick, raucous and relentless: the word “punishing” is perhaps used too often by the metal community at large, but it is certainly applicable here. Almost seemingly imperfect by design, Hasta La Muerte just feels right the way it is. To quote a song from the album, “I never seem to do things right, but it sure feels right.”

Track picks: “Laid To Rest” and “Stoneheart”
Score: 8.5/10
For fans of: Black Sheep Wall, Disembodied, Crowbar

I’ve included a Spotify player here for folks who want to check these dudes out. Which should be all of you.

New venture: Press Team

So, I’ve been wanting to get in on the other side of music journalism for a while now. I’ve been quite used to working with press persons and teams for a few years, but I want to know if I can be successful at the other side–reaching out to bloggers, magazine editors, podcasters, etc. to get acts coverage. Rather than start with a band who needs someone experienced right out of the gate, I’m teaming up with a band with members I am close friends with, a band that has barely started even being a band.

I don’t want to spill the beans just yet as there are some finalizations that need to be made with the band and their music, but I can tell you it’s going to rock, and I can’t wait to help get them out into the world with it. They’re great dudes who just want to rock ‘n’ roll, and that’s just what they’re dead-set on doing.

Perhaps in the future once I sort of get the hang of it I’ll take on doing press outreach for other bands so feel free to shoot me an e-mail about this stuff, especially if you’re a contributor to a music blog/magazine/podcast/etc.!

Suffer The Destroyer – The Silent Majority [Review]

Suffer the Destroyer is a relatively new hardcore/metalcore/deathcore/mosh band from Boston. I wish I could tell you that I know exactly what style or genre of mosh-heavy music Suffer The Destroyer would be most closely associated with, but I can’t. In any case, they’ve played a handful of local gigs, recorded a six song EP called The Silent Majority, and are now scheming to take over the world (or so I assume).

The Silent Majority really fills more of a demo role than an actual EP, as the recording quality is pretty rough. While there are plenty of criticisms about the recording quality, they’re not really important in the grand scheme of this demo, especially considering it’s plenty good enough to hear all the instruments and what’s going on, as well as being decently mixed. What the recording quality does give you, though, is a good indicator at how well the band performs (there really isn’t any “studio magic” to be found). It also helps to capture the band’s energy without the assistance of bass drops (and thank goodness for that).

Musically, The Silent Majority is a rather odd mix of metalcore styles that range from mega-heavy beatdowns to melodic bridges. There’s some pretty original-sounding riffs and vocal lines, but also a few “tried-and-true” riffs scattered throughout the demo. Even more, there were a couple of musically surprising elements, such as the thick bass groove driving a section of gang vocals smack in the middle of “Iconoclast” right before it gets back to the circle-pitting verse. You’ll find groovy riffs, gang vocals, circle pit chugs, spacey guitar licks, brutal beatdowns and everything in between on this twenty minute demo.

As a demo, The Silent Majority is about everything you could ask for. It shows the versatility and musical interests of the band, isn’t too long, and actually has a couple of solid songs. If you’re looking for much more than that, you’re not really going to find that here. I have no doubts, however, that the next release from Suffer The Destroyer will bring the heat on another level.

In any case, you might as well download it and give it a spin. It is free, after all. Check it out below:

Obzerter – Absence of Colour [Review]

Obzerter - Absence of Colour

Remember a time when Static-X was actually a good metal band? Well, it’s a bit of a stretch, but at least they were halfway decent and interesting on their first couple albums with whatever style of music you’d pigeon-hole them into. Now imagine if they actually WERE a pretty good metal band, now wouldn’t that be something?

Enter UK-based band Obzerter. About a decade since Static-X’s last decent album (Machine, for those not keeping track), Obzerter has decided to build their throne on top of the foundation they built, and a mighty (albeit short) throne it is. It comes in the form of a five-song EP called the Absence of Color EP. It’s a rather lengthy EP, clocking in at just a pinch over thirty minutes (which is longer than the full album I had as my number one selection in 2008, for comparison’s sake).

While vaguely reminiscent of Static-X on the vocal front, continuing this weak comparison does Obzerter no justice at all. I would also imagine it’s just a huge coincidence that the vocal stylings on this EP are very similar to Wayne Static’s at times. It also does the band no justice because I’m sure there aren’t many people that feel as fondly as I do about Static-X’s first two albums.

Absence of Color is a fairly fresh amalgamation of a lot of very distinct styles of American metal. There’s a distinct feel of the “New Wave Of American Heavy Metal” in there with the amount of groove found in each song (even though they’re from London). Tempo changes, different styles of licks and riffs, this album has a lot of stuff on it. Even with the breadth of material this album has, it only loosely fits under the “progressive metal” umbrella.

The production is about what you can expect from an unsigned band recording an EP. It’s not terrible by any means, and the rawness really brings out the ferocity in a lot of the riff and vocal pairings.

Though it’s not the bet EP I’ve ever heard, it at the very least peaks my interests in what’s next for the band. It shows a ton of promise, so long as they can keep the pace. They’ve got plans to re-record Damage and prepare for a second EP. Check out “Absence of Colour” below and share your thoughts below!

The Sun Through A Telescope

Atmospheric doom metal: admittedly, not something I’m the most familiar with. In this instance, I’m experiencing The Sun Through A Telescope for the first time, and I can say this: it’s quite heavy on the ambience. Since I’ve not the experience or breadth of knowledge for a real and legitimate album review, this is more of a “first impression” sort of post. I do have pretty extensive experience with different types of atmospheric musics such as serial composition, minimalist composers, post-rock bands, etc. as well as both doom and black metal (even atmospheric black metal bands like Wolves In The Throne Room) so I’m quite interested in hearing this project.

First, a little about the double EP Orange and Green/Black that I’m writing about. It’s a project done by a man named Leigh who hails from Ottawa, Ontario under the name The Sun Through A Telescope that was recorded and released on two separate cassettes (though you can download the .mp3 versions).

I’m 100% unsure of which EP to start with, so I selected Orange in a rather arbitrary manner. From the start you get a very good taste of what’s to come, hearing what I can only imagine are sounds from some sort of ocean area. Birds squawking, gentle movement of water, and there are some light synth noises and some feedback… then out of nowhere a black metal section blasts you in the face. The first few songs go a lot like that, with metal carefully woven into some very cool atmospheric textures. When things truly start to get interesting are when the vocals come in on “Glowing Halowe’en Eyes” — they’re pretty haunting, having been processed through some sort of filters, they’re quite reminiscent of the vocals at the begging of “Akeldama” by the Faceless, and at some other points they’re totally unleashed being delivered with pure and unadulterated emotion (often in the form of a powerful shriek).

The rest of Orange continues on in the same manner, tastefully swapping out noise, doom, black metal, and atmospheric sections while introducing more unique nuances to keep the listener’s attention. Green/Black? Not so much, it starts off with a thirteen-minute monster of an atmospheric track, using some of the most haunting tones and harmonies I’ve heard, then moves into the visceral three and a half minutes of “The Priest With One Black Hand”–a raw and heavily hardcore punk influenced track. Right after the album takes another slow but extreme turn where you get the first clean and unprocessed singing on the set of EPs.

Overall I really enjoyed listening to the double EP. It is very well recorded and mixed, and is full of really interesting content. Whether it’s music, bird noises, running water, screaming bloody murder, or whatever else is on this album, it was all very pleasant to listen to. I can’t say I’d recommend this as a listen for anyone with a short attention span, but I will say that it’s certainly worth checking out if you feel like taking sixty-three minutes of sonic exploration.

Here, check out the song “Glowing Hallowe’en Eyes” for a taste of what you can expect from the album:

If you’re interested in checking out more, each EP is a measly $2.50 at The Sun Through A Telescope’s Bandcamp, so head over and check that out.

The Summoned – If Only Minds Could Paint Pictures [Review]

If Only Minds Could Paint Pictures is the debut full-length from Massachusetts-based extreme metallers The Summoned, and is currently unreleased (perhaps more news to come on that in the future).

The Summoned belong to the group of bands that play a style of music that borders itself along death metal and grindcore (but isn’t really deathcore). Clocking in at only 33 minutes, it’s a bit of a short album, but very dense in musical content. There are lots of really nice guitar licks, pace changes, etc. combined with Steve’s excessively brutal vocals. Deciding to not go the route of bands like Suffocation and Skinless, the vocals are not usually at the lowest of lows. Instead, the vocals mostly sound more like mid-range screams than growls–and they pack a ton of fury.

Easily the best part about If Only Minds Could Paint Pictures is the consistently high level of guitar work. While they aren’t constantly noodling, the riffs, licks and solos are always interesting. The somewhat atonal licks in “Anatomy Of A Bar Fight” show just how strong of a grasp this band has on quality guitar parts that stray from the path just a bit. You even get to hear that they have a good ear for melody and tasteful guitar playing on the track “The Flood” with some solid guitar solos dropped right in the middle of that track.

Most of the album is straight to sixth gear, outside of the very somber guitar interlude track “Space Was…” which only lasts for a minute and is followed by what could be the gnarliest track on the album “Space Is…” which is filled with mid-tempo blasts, pinch harmonics, and harmonized guitar licks.

From start to finish you get the feeling that If Only Minds Could Paint Pictures is totally unrelenting. At every point where it feels like there’s a down moment it lulls you into a false sense of security until you get fully-harmonized riffs forced with fury down your throat. Backed up by an extremely tight rhythm section, the very few breakdowns on this album are neither boring or stereotypical, adding another dimension to an already outside of the box style.

As a debut record, there’s not a whole lot you can ask from a band who went the DIY route, except maybe for more of it. Certainly a very interesting listen, if there’s one thing you won’t be while listening to If Only Minds Could Paint Pictures it’s bored. It’s hard to say where exactly the band might go from this release, but more of the same would absolutely be welcomed.

Song choices: “The Flood” and “Anatomy of a Bar Fight”

Overall score: 8/10 devil horns