Monday, 24 June 2013

Deafheaven- Sunbather

In certain circles, it's fair to say that "Sunbather" is one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Following on from the bruised brilliance of their debut album, "Roads To Judah", and a split with BOSSE-DE-NAGE, for their sophomore album, DEAFHEAVEN continue to tread a path entirely of their own. Somewhat unfairly the band have been lumbered with the post-black metal tag leading to inaccurate comparisons to scene luminaries ALTAR OF PLAGUES and WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM but their sound is more akin to post-rock taken to it's extreme with beautiful melodies and harsh blackened noise. While "Sunbather" may be more positive in it's outlook than previous DEAFHEAVEN material, it is still a fully immersive emotional tour-de-force. 

Despite the guttural black metal growl and rampaging riffs that introduce "Dream House" it still manages to sound triumphant and strangely optimistic with the band showcasing their mastery of dynamics stripping the song back to a clean LANDSCAPES-esque melody before reintroducing the distorted guitars to a clarion call of "I want to dream". Following this, "Irresistible" is the first of several instrumentals interspersed across the album. A polyphony of melodies wave into one beautiful tapestry of gentle guitar and piano. Next, title track "Sunbather" reintroduces the cathartic vocals which carry a whole depth of emotion unheard of in 'conventional' black metal. Melody is used more subtly along with the devastating guitars, complementing the music but still allowing the heaviest parts to bludgeon the listener before taking a melodic tangent to keep you on edge throughout. Next is the second instrumental, "Please Remember" which dabbles in spoken word and acoustic guitar and pitches itself somewhere between CULT OF LUNA and GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR before the fifteen minute cinematic scope of "Vertigo". Beginning with a riff that wouldn't sound out of place on the 'Inception' soundtrack, "Vertigo" slowly builds up allowing each successive layer introduced ample time to develop. It's hard to pick out a highlight when each track is so perfect but the execution of "Vertigo" is amazing keeping up momentum throughout it's running time and providing the purest distillation of DEAFHEAVEN's post-rock/ black metal fusion. Following this is the third and final instrumental, "Windows", which finds the band back in GY!BE territory with minimal instrumentation creating an ominous tone accompanied by a sample of a street preacher. Final track, "The Pecan Tree" lays waste both aurally and emotionally with an impenetrable wall of noise ending with the harrowing confession, "I am my father's son/ I am no one/ I cannot love/ It's in my blood". It may be too early to call 'album of the year' but rarely does such a perfect album come along and the bar just got raised to dizzying heights. A future classic? An instant classic more like! (10/10)

"Sunbather" is out now through Deathwish Inc.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Kawabata Makoto's Mainliner- Revelation Space

KAWABATA MAKOTO's name is best known as the guitarist and group leader in tripped out Japanese psyche lords ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE but previous output by his other band; a self described 'psychedelic solid free attack group', is much fetished by fans of Makoto and following over a decade of inactivity, the surprise announcement of a new album is enough to make any psych fan quiver with excitement. While Makoto prefers to keep an air of mystery around such details as the album's recording (a refreshing attitude as any reviewer who finds their inbox constantly bombarded with trivial press releases can attest), what we do know is that, along with Makiti and drummer Koji Shimura is a newcomer on bass and vocal duties, Kawabe Taigen.

As far as statements of intent go, the eleven minute guitar freakout that introduces "Revelation Space" takes some beating. Straight from the jump, the title track sees the power trio firing on all cylinders with Shimura and Taigen providing a rhythmic backbone to the free squall of Makoto's feedback drenched guitar. Next, "Taitan" brings more ear-splitting levels of feedback with a mantric drum and bass groove building to a fever pitch while Taigen's ethereal vocals inject plenty of atmosphere.However, his vocals have an entirely different effect as he howls like a man possessed over the punked up wall of noise that is "D.D.D". Taking the riotous energy of GUITAR WOLF or THE STOOGES and pushing it to the precipice of insanity, it's delirious two minute duration rushes by before you know it. Penultimate track, "The Dispossessed" (which is exclusive to the CD release) takes the sheer power of the previous track and stretches it to a touch under ten minutes of breathless unhinged riffing and a repeated six note pattern which comes across like BLACK SABBATH on steroids. All that's left then is for the sprawling twenty minute epic "New Sun" to conclude matters. Basically, "New Sun" collates everything you've heard before into one final torrent of brilliantly obtuse noise. KAWABATA MAKOTO delivers a barrage of riffs which range from all out sonic warfare to patterns where repetition is pushed to the fore like ONEIDA at their heaviest. The rhythm section alternately keep control with tight grooves and deliver a series of unpredictable twists and turns with the tempo building to a breakneck speed. When Taigen's vocal arise, conveying a depth of mystery in just a few syllables,it seems both at odds with and the perfect fit for the frantically paced music with it's slow and deliberate unearthly quality. Fans of Makoto will delight in the fifty minutes of psychedelic escapism on offer here and, while newcomers may be initially put off by the in-your-face directness of the music, given half a chance "Revelation Space" pulls you into it's spiralling insanity for an enthralling journey into the heart of psyche. (9/10)

"Revelation Space" is out now through Riot Season

Arcane Roots- Blood & Chemistry

Since self-releasing their mini-album, "Left Fire", back in 2011 (with a physical re-release last year), ARCANE ROOTS' popularity has been gaining all the way with Radio One airplay- courtesy of none other than BIFFY CLYRO's Simon Neil, a record deal with PIAS and hype in pretty much every corner of the music press under their belts. But if such a huge surge of interest in the band in such a short space of time doesn't seem daunting to you then, with the release of their debut album "Blood & Chemistry", now it's time for ARCANE ROOTS to really put their money where their mouths are. With an even more dazzling array of genres mixed in than ever before; prop, pop, alt-rock, post-hardcore, math-rock and anything else they feel a track needs, ARCANE ROOTS manage to pull it all together into one cohesive product delivering an album that is innovative without being divisive and accessable without being overly commercialised.

Opening with the hardcore blast of "Energy Is Never Lost Just Redirected", it seems less like a statement of intent and more a full blown declaration of war proving that, while they've never disguised the pop vein to their music or their love of a good hook, ARCANE ROOTS are no conformists and do exactly what they want to. Next comes advance single, "Resolve" which has the aforementioned pop hooks in spades yet still willfully confounds expectations with a frantic variation on the main riff rearing it's head at the song's climax. They slow things right down for ballad "Belief" mixing math-rock noodles into what could be a slower cut from BIFFY CLYRO's "Puzzle" but the frenetic, angular riffing returns on "Sacred Shapes" which has shades of, "Left Fire" highlight, "In This Town Of Such Weather" with some 22 thrown in for good measure before a lush acoustic outro shows yet another side to their sound. "Hell & High Water" is a colossal anthem in waiting and "Triptych" illustrates the immense technical prowess of the band with an off-kilter blend of math-rock and post-hardcore and an insane mathcore bridge verging on THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN territory. Second single, "Slow" is anything but its namesake and isn't as easily accessable as "Resolve" but definitely warrants repeated listens and a reprise of the outro to "Sacred Shapes" asking "is love enough?" gives the album an overall cohesion rather than just being a collection of (admittedly brilliant) tracks. Following this, ARCANE ROOTS go in an entirely opposite direction with the heaviest track on the album, "Second Breath" but even at their most frenetic, there's still plenty of depth to the songwriting. The semi-acoustic "Held Like Knives" is the weakest track here but it's not bad by any stretch of the imagination while the best is saved 'til last with "You Keep Me Here" condensing the numerous sounds they explore across the album into one final outing. Their relative inexperience doesn't shine through at all and one wonders how long it will be before ARCANE ROOTS follow BIFFY CLYRO onto the arena circuit. (8/10)

"Blood & Chemistry" is out now through PIAS

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Dillinger Escape Plan- One Of Us Is The Killer

It's easy to write THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN off as one of the numerous tech-metal bands who only set out to beguile the average punter but to do so would be to completely miss the point. On their fifth album, they remain as divisive as ever but their sound has much more depth than just the breakneck riffing and time signatures which makes their music so unpredictable. "One Of Us Is The Killer" brings together everything that's made the quintet's previous output so electrifying; the edge-of-the-seat intensity of "Calculating Infinity", the pop flirtations of "Miss Machine", the electronics flirtations of "Ire Works" and the jazz flirtations of "Option Paralysis" while adding in subtle horns in the most unexpected places just when you think you've got them figured out. With a BLACK FLAG-esque stance on line-up, only guitarist and lead songwriter Ben Weinman remains of the band that brought out their debut self-titled EP back in 1997 but the quality of their music has not wavered one bit and while they'll always have their detractors unwilling to give thir post-Dimitri Minakakis output a chance, they're the only ones who are missing out on one of modern metal's greatest innovators.

Opener, "Prancer" is the most straight-forward track here but it still charges out of the gate with THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN's signature jarring riffs and hardcore bluster before "When I Lost My Bet" shows a seeming aversion to repeating sections running the gamut from jazz drumming to "Irony Is A Dead Scene" informed vocal delivery. The title track calms things right down and is perhaps the most surprising track here with subtle horn sections rubbing shoulders with more straight-up rock with Dillinger's trademark bag of spanners thrown into the mix. Next, "Hero Of The Soviet Union" sees the band channeled through DANNY ELFMAN while "Nothing's Funny" bears a passing resemblance to "Good Neighbor" (of "Option Paralysis") with more of an industrial vibe. The intro riff to "Understanding Decay" could have been written by AT THE DRIVE-IN but after this it veers off into more Mike Patton-era territory before "Paranoia Shields" provides another massive risk for the band with almost no screaming and a jazzy breakdownbut it pays off spectacularly as an album highlight. The cryptically titled "CH 375 268 277 ARS" is an instrumental apart from an indecipherable vocal sample and boldly mixes electronics with orchestral embelishments. The next two tracks, "Magic That I Held You Prisoner" and "Crossburner" sees the band back in more familiar mathcore territory before the album's conclusion, "The Threat Held By Nuclear Weapons" simultaneously channels both CAR BOMB and DEFTONES into one final 'what the fuck did I just hear?' moment. Needless to say, if you weren't already a fan of THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, "One Of Us Is The Killer" probably won't change your opinion on them. However if you were already in thrall to the undisputred kings of mathcore then you'll revel in the opportunity to hear new music from them. While the band haven't quite raised their very high game this time round, they still leave the numerous pretenders to their throne coughing in their dust. (8/10)

"One Of Us Is The Killer" is out now through Party Smasher Inc/ BMG