The Ciem Show – Lifelike Scenes [Review]

When thinking of what the term “progressive” means in the metal world in 2011, it doesn’t really mean that the music it is attached to is really progressive, but rather that it fits into a certain sound or style loaded with technical proficiency. Bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X could be considered part of the reason for this. Some bands, however, are looking to atone for this watered-down meaning of the “progressive” label in metal.

Enter The Ciem Show and their 2010 release Lifelike Scenes. Sonically, the album might be able to find its home right alongside Dream Theater and Symphony X, but I’d be lying if I said that was the whole story. This album floats around through all sorts of metal styles; from the djent intro of “Scene II: Evolution Sickness: i. Existing Without Being / ii. Being Without Existing” to the melodically difficult “Scene V: Effects of Somnambulism” The Ciem Show aren’t afraid of mixing in whatever inspires them to their music.

Doom metal, power metal, heavy metal, djent: it’s all here in Lifelike Scenes. You even get a really good taste of the virtuosic playing that many prog-heads have come to love from their genre. The solo towards the end of “Scene VI: Theme for Lost Children” is fantastic, floating between jazz melodies and the heart-wrenching melodies found in some of the more somber heavy metal ballads.

There are really only two faults of Lifelike Scenes. First, the mixing makes it a bit difficult to hear and appreciate the intricacy of each of the instrumental layers on many of the songs. There are multiple instances on the album where the bass just becomes lost in the mix. The second is that the album just feels a bit short for a prog album, clocking in at only 36 minutes (seven songs).

Even considering the albums couple shortcomings, it’s still a great listen and worth checking out if you’re looking for some solid prog metal. You can pick the album up for free from The Ciem Show’s Bandcamp page. Let’s be serious, since you can get it for free, there’s no reason not to listen to it.

For fans of: Ayreon, Dream Theater, Symphony X

Advertisements

The Weekend Rant, Vol. 2: Being “trve” and “kvlt”

One seemingly ongoing and inexhaustible topic of arguments in the metal world is how the only “trve” black metal is the original black metal. I often notice that this argument is often used to castigate Dimmu Borgir and Abigail Williams fans (among others). I think old school and “kvlt” black metal is totally different from newer bands making it. Totally different circumstances and mindsets. I think both, musically, have equal merit but you cannot match the cultural implications of the earlier black metal bands in the early 90s in Norway, there’s simply no way. It is an inescapable truth that bands such as Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum, etc. are the bands that are often considered the pinnacle of black metal music, thus being considered the most “kvlt” or “trve” of all the black metal bands.

I don’t buy that whole “new bands can’t be trve” malarkey. It’s not like they chose to be starting their musical careers two decades after the movement they associate best with occurred. As long as they truly believe in what they’re doing, that’s as true as it gets. Sure, they might not come from a place and feel religiously oppressed by the people that wiped away their cultural heritage, but it doesn’t make their circumstance any less legitimate or meaningful.

There is, however, a scale of how traditional a band’s music is to the originators of black metal. Dimmu Borgir is the perfect band to illustrate this. In their early years, they were about as true to form to symphonic black metal as you could possibly be, their sound very much in line with some of Emperor‘s best albums. In recent years, since Death Cult Armageddon they have strayed from the traditional path to venture into more grand and symphonic arrangements and songs, forgoing some of the low-fidelity and ripping nature of their black metal predecessors. At that point, the black metal purists cried wolf. Apparently musical progression and deviance is taboo in the black metal world. I could draw a parallel to this mindset and that of the Christian mindsets that black metal once fought, but anyone who knows anything about black metal already can see that at this point.

What I find especially mind-boggling is that these stances are often taken by people who have absolutely nothing to do with the culture in which black metal originated, so their feelings of outsiders being unwelcome is absolutely unfounded. By stating that newer bands who aren’t from that specific era in can’t be considered “trve,” what does that mean for all of the black metal fans who are also not from that circumstance? Are they also not “trve?” It all seems just a small amount ridiculous to me. As far I can tell, the “trve” tag has come to just be a pedestal to promote elitism in metal, something I feel there needs to be a lot less of these days. It’s the only thing keeping metal from being a wildly successful genre of music.

Just think for a second, how these mindsets are stifling the metal world that is currently burgeoning with creativity. It truly breaks my heart. I hope we can all at least agree that Emperor is a great band. How about we just enjoy the video for “Empty” by Emperor?

Derelict Looking To Perpetuate Band Success

If you’ve been a longtime reader here at The Heaviest Matter of the Universe, you may recall a review I did for the band Derelict‘s Unspoken Words back in early 2009. Otherwise, let this serve as your first introduction to the band. It’s the first single they’ve released since Unspoken Words came out, and it’s called “Perpetuation.” Here, have a listen:

This song is typical Derelict riff-your-face-off fashion, and in this case, typical is a great thing. The song is going to be featured on a three song “demo” (really more of an EP) soon as the band is putting the finishing touches on their next full-length album. If you like what you heard above, go pickup a copy of Unspoken Words online through Year of the Sun Records or Relapse Records, or snag it from iTunes. Make sure you keep on the lookout for the upcoming EP!

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)

Deicide – To Hell With God [Review]

To Hell With God is the tenth release by Tampa-based death metal band Deicide, and was released February 15, 2011 as the band’s first release under Century Media records.

Known as one of the original, best, and most brutal death metal bands in the history of the genre, Deicide have never ceased to assault and please ears with each new release. In their history the band has seen little transformation or deviance from their relentless sound, though the lineup changes post-2004 when the Hoffman brothers ceased their guitar-playing duties with the band. To many cries of “not as good as before!” Deicide have still managed to put out another album that’s stands true to the genre they helped pioneer.

There is but one unescapable truth regarding To The Hell With God: while it falls directly in line with the post-2004 releases it lacks a certain leaded fury that was delivered when Deicide enlisted the Hoffman brothers. Unlike many accounts I’ve encountered, however, I think this is both a good and bad thing. Let’s start with why this sucks. Deicide were most certainly one of the heaviest and most brutal bands that seemed to get as close as possible to the “over the top” mark into the “silly” territory, and seemed to be masters of doing so, but they’re no longer quite as close to that mark, almost as if they’ve let off the throttle a bit.

Outweighing the negatives of being heavy to the brink of silliness is that the production is leaps and bounds better than the band had once featured on their albums. Glen Benton’s vocals are perhaps the best they’ve ever been and you can actually hear them in the mix–as you can each of the instruments in the band. There is nothing lost amidst the overwhelming heaviness of the album that Deicide occasionally fell prey to. With this more modern sound for the band also comes a more modern style of death metal than perhaps diehard Deicide fans are used to, but it’s closer to the classic Deicide than Till Death Do Us Part and The Stench Of Redemption.

Quite literally, the only “fault” of the album is that it’s not exactly like the Deicide of old, but I’m not complaining. To Hell With God is a great album, and it is fantastic to hear a classic band staying relevant by bringing their creativity and influence to the table in order to help reshape the genre in which they were of the first contributors to. Song after song, album after album, Deicide continue to show us why they’re a deserving candidate for the throne of death metal king.

Song picks: “Empowered By Blasphemy” and “How Can You Call Yourself A God”

Score: 9/10 Devil Horns

Crowbar – Sever The Wicked Hand [Review]

Sever The Wicked Hand is the ninth album from New Orleans sludge metal legends Crowbar and was released on E1 Music February 14, 2011, the band’s first release in six years.

In the history of metal, there are only a few bands who can really be attributed with being pioneers and landmarks in their respective styles and Crowbar are just that. In the early ’90s Kirk Windtstein and company cemented themselves as the premier sludge metal band of the time. Even at their worst, they’re still as good as any band to ever make sludge metal (after all, the did help make the mold).

Sever The Wicked Hand is exactly in line with everything that you’ve come to know and love about Crowbar, except possibly a bit darker this time. Kirk’s concentrated and powerful vocal delivery over constant fuzzed-out guitar riffs. The flavor of this album is very slightly different than 2005’s Lifeblood of the Downtrodden; a slightly different sound is to be expected after six years and, aside from Kirk, a totally new lineup.

There’s not a lot of speed in this record, it’s as slow as ever. Many songs employ Kirk’s more sorrowful and semi-clean vocals with more slick (but still fuzzed-out) guitar licks. Don’t worry, for all of you that like the thick and thrashy chugged out riffs, they’re still there. In general, however, Sever The Wicked Hand is still an incredibly heavy album, just not in a modern headbanger sort of way. It’s a slow, marching, and deliberate heavy at most times that feels more like a classic Black Sabbath sort of heavy.

The most interesting part about this album, though, has nothing to do with the music or performance itself, but rather the production and mixing. It sounds totally unlike a vast majority of metal records nowadays, outside of maybe some of the more obscure black metal bands. It’s an incredibly heavy sound without having a ton of sound packed into the lower register, most of the meat of these tracks are on the mids and so you really get to hear the full effect of the fuzz. It almost sounds rough around the edges, but deliberately so. There aren’t any fancy bass drops to add extra emphasis on chord changes, it’s all natural kick.

As a whole, as I mentioned before, Sever The Wicked Hand is everything we’ve come to know and love about Crowbar, perhaps this time with a little extra sorrow embedded in its sound and lyrics.

Track picks: “Liquid Sky And Cold Black Breath” and “The Cemetery Angels”

Overall score: 9/10 Devil Horns

The Weekend Rant, Vol. 1

Everyone has at least one thing that pisses them off. Some people have a lot. I happen to be a part of that latter category. Many of the things that I choose to rage about have to do with music and its business. Time to vent and tell people why they’re all stupid.

YouTube has been a very valuable asset to me in discovering new bands, checking out music videos, etc. Though I prefer Vimeo, YouTube easily has the largest selection of videos on the ‘net. At this point in time, it seems like a majority of videos I watch have a top-rated comment that says something along the lines of this (which I took directly from a YouTube video):

“YOUTUBE IS PROMOTION, NOT OWNING.”

There are so many ways that this statement is both wrong and disillusioned, and it annoys the hell out of me. I don’t expect everyone to know every arm of what copyrights protect you against, but for those of you who would like to know, here they are in a simple and boiled-down version:

  1. The right to reproduce the copyrighted work
  2. The right to prepare derivative works based upon the work
  3. The right to distribute copies of the work to the public
  4. The right to perform the copyrighted work publicly
  5. The right to display the copyrighted work publicly

(to you IP law savvy people, I know there’s technically six if you count performing a sound recording, but for simplicity sake, I’m counting that with public performance)

By uploading a copyrighted video to YouTube you do not have the rights to, you are breaking four (almost five of these). If you bothered to count, that’s all of them. So yes, you are breaking the law by “promoting” videos on YouTube. So now that we’ve covered that it’s actually illegal, what are the other repercussions of this? Well, you’re enjoying copyrighted content for free. Enjoying this content for free means that the people who would normally be making money from this content aren’t anymore. This means artists, labels, publishers, the works.

Oh, you want to wave the fair use claim? Good luck, here’s what is covered by fair use, again in a simple and boiled-down way:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

This one is a bit more complex than the rights that copyright affords you, and is by no means black and white. It would take a lot to explain these things in detail, but the Fair Use Wikipedia article is very well written and covers the common misconceptions of fair use. In short, there is almost no way whatsoever for your argue of fair use to hold up in court if you uploaded a copyrighted work to YouTube. You can’t even have YouTube be your meat shield in this case because of the “safe harbor” law that prevents sites on the Internet, such as YouTube, who can’t (reasonably) be expected to patrol all their content for copyright infringements.

So please, people, stop complaining about needing to see an ad or two before your video. It’s allowing you to enjoy content for free (which you like) and allows for the content’s creators to make money from their content (meaning they can keep making it, which you like). If you’re still adamant about not having ads and such, suffer any/all of the following repercussions: poor quality content, videos being removed due to copyright infringement, or you end up needing to pay for certain content. Pick your poison.

The moral of this story: learn something about the stuff you complain about before you complain so you don’t look like a total asshat.