Saturday, November 9, 2013 Review #20 [Wijlen Wij - "Coronachs Of The Ω"]


Admittedly over the last year or so I've found myself having a lot of trouble finding new things to love from the up and coming doom metal bands exposed to me. For the most part, a lot of the groups I've heard just plod along mindlessly with no real sense of individuality, drive or purpose and as a whole I thought the scene was beginning to get stale (Some would argue with me that this has been the case for the last 5 or so years, but I'm not that cynical). So while a band like The Howling Void becomes noteworthy for being average and Skepticism and Shape of Despair start to become shells of their former selves and terrifying otherworldly groups like Septic Mind, Wormphlegm and Dolorian disappear back to their own dimension, Wijlen Wij has risen up from the underground and are easily one of the first bands I've heard this year worthy of being called a great funeral doom band. Make no mistake, these guys are not trying to be heavy just to be heavy. The atmosphere dripping out of the group's second record is a punishing blend of surreal dread, crushing riffs, depressing leads, monstrous vocals and beautiful keys.

For the skeptics in the group who seem to be writing them off as such, Wijlen Wij is not a copycat band by a long shot. Sure you can hear some Skepticism in the organ use and occasionally in the leads, but what these musicians are doing is much more than that and any fan of the funeral doom spectrum should definitely be sliding these guys into your regular listening rotation if you want something new that isn't just another Thergothon clone that's going to be forgotten about in a week. One of my favorite surprises on the album is the occasional use of clean and spoken vocals, which you are exposed to pretty early on through the opening track "Boreas", as well as "A solemn ode to ruin". The variety of tones used with the synthesizers and keyboards is fantastic, as the person behind them sees no need to stick to the same style for very long at all. Elements of darkwave, industrial and dark ambient are all heard at different points alongside actual piano, bell and organ elements typically found in this type of music. Also, is it weird that a lot of the music on this record actually sounds really catchy to me? It could just be that I'm a little crazy myself, but the entrancing aura is definitely there if you spend the time with it.

As far as the rest of the elements go, the growls are solid and while they don't really break any new ground, they're good and they fit in well with the rest of the music and the overall mood being conveyed as the record moves along. The guitars are splendid, both in terms of the dreamy lead work and the crushing rhythmic chugging sections. The drumwork, as well, is great and is more spacious and unforceful than most doom drummers I've heard, especially while still maintaining a concise level of flare with his pattern choices. Everything about this record is exactly what I've been looking for all year and had been unable to find. Take a strong lesson from Wijlen Wij, regain your levels of individuality and take some chances! There should never be such a thing as 'safe' funeral doom metal. Ever. Forever. I wanted to also make note of the fact that while this album is not out yet, the band expects it to be coming out in the early part of 2014 through Solitude Productions


Wednesday, October 30, 2013 Review #19 [Heirs of the Void - "Evil Spirit"]


Well, I definitely got myself a weird one. If you like your Doom raw, standing on the fence between Rock and Metal, with mild elements of early Skepticism and Warning, then this demo by Heirs of the Void might be right up your alley. I can't even tell if I really like it all the way through, but it's intriguing enough with it's cornucopia of elements to make me sit and listen without much wavering. You've got some feedback-laden atmosphere here, some really melancholic funeral leads there and a vocalist who refused to choose between the Black and Gothic Metal blueprints, yet does both with such conviction that it's hard to complain. The tones used with the guitar throughout most of the 4 tracks present here are actually some of the best that I've heard coming out of a demo in quite some time. The vocalist actually has a really good voice (And that is not something I normally praise in my Doom reviews) and it's surprising to see it on both sides of the coin he's flipping. The Black-ish growls are menacing and powerful, while the clean vocals are higher ranged and strong while still avoiding the annoying paramaters (to me) of being in the falsetto range. The only real problem I have with the demo is the evident use of a drum machine and the simple patterns programmed along with it, which just do not work well with the rest of the music most of the time. The bass, as well, is often indistinguishable, but with the raw production of the demo it's somewhat forgiveable.

Overall, the demo is a fairly lackluster affair with spots of brilliance sprinkled here and there, but regular enough to make this something worth listening to on a regular basis. All the same, this is still a stronger start than I've seen from a lot of bands who went on to make solid records down the road. So if they can stick with it and build on what they've got, then I have no doubt that they will do fine for themselves in the scene. If it were me, I wouldn't change much in the vocal department; just some more experimentions with the guitarwork, the bass up a little bit in the mix, a real drummer who has a decent idea of what he's doing, and maybe if the bnad could consider some light keyboard work, this could turn into something truly worthwhile. They've got some of the right ingredients, so get to work and bake a delicious cake for the Doom world to devour! I, for one, will be keeping an eye on Heirs of the Void as their journey unfolds.


Monday, July 29, 2013 Review #18 [My Indifference to Silence - "Horizon of my Heaven"]


I feel that it goes without saying that one should take everything that a reviewer (Or writer of any nature) has to say with a grain of salt. We mold our writing around our opinions and the things that appeal to us and stand against the things that make our skin crawl, but without researching for yourself one would easily miss an abundance of great things that one jerk with an opinion didn't seem to enjoy. I'm clearly just making light of myself, but it's good for it to be known. As much as one would assume to be just common sense, there are people out there who would look at something negative and go "Well then that's clearly not worth my time" and not give it a second thought. So with all of that having been said, I'm going to dig into some Doom Metal, for better or worse... 

The first thing that comes to mind when listening to the My Indifference to Silence album i've been given is a loose comparison to the Death Doom group Daylight Dies, who themselves could be considered a more straight-forward and to-the-point (And superior) take on what Opeth does. The production is great and everything is clear and concise and you quickly forget that the effort is actually another one-man project. One of the first musical things to point out is how ridiculous to drumwork (Which might be programmed) can get at certain points, easily switching it up from a mid-tempo drive to ferociously fast Death Metal kick runs. The vocal stylings are your typical (Not in a bad way) Death Doom fodder, where the vocalist relies solely on his growls to add to the onslaught of the music, with not many clean notes to be found (Aside from the occasionalMy Dying Bride-esque spoken sections). The guitar playing, for the most part, contains a strong level of heaviness with the gloomy sense of melody one would expect from this style of music, switching off from mid-tempo chugging to. Occasional use of clean picking is present, but it tends to be mostly used for song intros or interludes. There are keyboards as well, but they tend to be used as more of a background piece to add to the atmospherics for the tracks in question, with the exception being some delay smothered piano intros such as what can be heard at the beginning of 'Falling Stars'.

As with most Russian Doom Metal that I've heard over the last few years, there is a strong level of despair and dread lurking throughout every crevice of this piece. One of the few issues that I have with the album as a whole is that a lot of the songs seem to grow repetitious as you get further and further into the record. Despite there being some minor issues with the repetitiveness, it doesn't make what you're hearing unmemorable, as I can easily see this becoming a regular addition to my doomier listening habits. As I've already made note of, everything here sounds solid in a studio sense and if the project's lone member can gather up some more ghouls, this should definitely be turned into a live group and taken out on the road. Seriously, get yourself a backing band and get out there! There's certainly a level of catchiness here that isn't present in a lot of music of this nature which, for me, is definitely a welcome additional treat to the listening experience. If you're a fan of the bands I've already mentioned or maybe you're just looking for something newer in the Gothic-tinged Death Doom field, I heavily recommend giving these guys a listen. It may not be the freshest sound, but sometimes it doesn't need to be. 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Non-Commissioned Review #01 [Coldplay - "Mylo Xyloto"]


Every once in a while I force myself to sit down and listen to something from a group that i'm not a fan of, just to see what comes out in written form. Truth be told, i've been turning my head away from the Coldplay camp ever since I had to hear "Yellow" all those years ago and things have rarely swayed since that point (Although I am a sucker for "Clocks"). Expectedly, the album is a very 'pretty' electronic pop rock affair with minor Radiohead/U2 tendencies in all areas of the musical landscape. As much as I do not want to enjoy the record, there is infact something very welcoming about the sound, almost trying to create a soundscape for the dreamworld in the twilight hours of the day. There is zero aggression in Coldplay's bag of tricks (Unless you count the very few times the group uses distortion with their guitars, heh), which shouldn't surprise anyone, but that doesn't mean that the music is something upbeat and throwaway. Quite the contrary, despite the dreamy aura of some of the music, there's a noticeable layer of despair to most of what is heard, especially in the storytelling done by the group's vocalist. The further into the record you get, the clearer it becomes that every member of the band is quite capable at their respected craft.

This is never something I could listen to on a regular basis (It's just the way my taste goes, i'm afraid), but for what the guys are offering you could definitely do a lot worse in the modern pop rock department... far, far worse. If I have to go really mainstream rock, I would take a band like Madina Lake, but this is surprisingly solid and more interesting than I was expecting it to be. The verses are engaging, the choruses are powerful and the musicianship, as I stated, is good. Even the lead ballad, "Us Against The World", has it's moments, although it's definitely my least favorite of the first 4 tracks on the record. My favorite track on the album probably goes to "Major Minus", with it's insatiable catchiness and actual occasional use of a distorted guitar. I suppose the collaborative efforts of Brian Eno helped a bit, but I don't want to take too much away from the output as a whole. I have way more interest and respect in a group like Coldplay than I do, say... Maroon 5. Putting it up against a lot of the music I regularly listen to in a ranking system just doesn't seem fair, so instead i'm just going to give the album a 6 out of 10 in terms of a pop rock album. It just doesn't seem right to say something like "Yeah, the Coldplay album is alright, but it's no Carcass!" Clearly i've gotten a little soft as I get older, but I guess I just don't care.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013 Review #17 [Ocean of Ghosts - "Ascending"]


You probably wouldn't be very far off base to think something is a tad bit wrong with your psyche when you find the new Ocean of Ghosts album to be an attractive and alluring piece of music. Easily one of the 'prettiest' sounding un-mainstream records that I have ever had the pleasure of listening to, this is not something that will be at all appealing to the Fall Out Boy mallrats of the current generation. Demented, cruel, captivating and audibly claustrophobic, 'Ascending' sets itself apart from the Extreme Doom Metal rat race with its suffocating layers of ambience and droning noise to complement the driving, over-fuzzed guitar work that can be heard on display throughout. The guitars, for the most part, actually remind me of another stateside Doom act (Oregon's Akem Manah), but whereas that crew seems to try far too hard to seem dark and evil, the one-man force of Ocean of Ghosts makes it seem almost second nature. 

The album's opener, "Destroyer", is a good example of how the Ocean of Ghosts formula typically tries to work itself out. The crushing, engulfing Drone worshipping first half of the track that makes Sunn O))) seem calm by comparison gives way to a hypnotic, almost wave-like ambient texture segment to close out to the song. On the other hand, the album's fourth tune, "Sky Burial", which has a guitar tone that could pass for a rough and dirty synthesizer to most ears, seems to almost slide in and out of both styles seemlessly, creating a thick bed of tension from start to finish. Without trying to build it up too much to the reader, this could be one of the few albums I can think of that would make Brian Williams (Lustmord) react in a wide-eyed manner. In most of the tracks, the vocal work itself almost turns into an instrument all it's own, being heavily effected all around and adding one more level of chaos to the overflowing blueprints of 'Ascending'. On an album that finds even the softer songs conveying a strong sense of dread to the listener, be warned of the journey that this album is about to take you on.

As far as the rest of the instrumentation goes, everything seems to work so well together that I'm having trouble pointing out flaws of any kind. The drumwork tends not to be your normal, boring Doom/Drone fodder and the bass work (When it's able to be distinguished from the rest of the mass) fills in its void without issue. Another thing worth making mention of is the track lengths found on the album which, to no one's surprise inside the genre's fanbase, are all quite extensive. The album itself is almost an eighty minute affair while only covering eight track slots and still creating tracks which are interesting enough from start to finish to not make you ready for a nap or have an itch to hit the skip button. All in all, the album is a strong one and definitely something to look into for anyone who likes a helping of Drone and Ambience to go with their Doom. To conclude, the record is no doubt a worthy (and superior) successor to 2009's 'Loss And Numbness', taking many of the primal ideas found there, bringing out the best in the elements and assembling one fine monolith for the 2013 spectrum. All I can say is that this better not be the last Ocean of Ghosts record. You have been warned, Mr. Cutrer!