Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Update: Moving

The reviews I do will now be for http://www.rarmy.net/ -- this means that I'll try to keep up and repost reviews here, but it's not going to be a sure thing and no non-rarmy stuff will be here. I highly encourage you to instead become patrons of that fine establishment.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Upload: Some Classics (no review)

I decided to post a few classic albums here, but they are classics -- I wouldn't feel worthy giving them reviews like every other album here. So instead I'll write a little on my opinions of the concepts of "making it" and "winning" in the industry, which are often unfortunate consequences of creating a "classic" album.

There are many different ideas about how to "make it" in the music world. Some are more accurate than others. One view is simply that the band that makes the most money has definitively "made it" -- this band "wins", and is "in". If you're reading this, you know damn well that this isn't the case; the "artists" (using the term very loosely) that make the most money are usually the ones that pander to a certain demographic for the sole sake of making money. These are not so much artists as businessmen, and as such they have "made" absolutely shit in terms of musical value. The next concept is the artist who gets the most fans. Although this falls prey to the same problem as the former idea, it is less wrong than the former idea; the artists who we genuinely describe as "winning" are often those who do have many fans, though for very different reasons. The last view I will present -- the idea that an artist "makes it" permanently by creating something that will be remembered through the generations -- is probably the closest. This is definitely a quality of all "classic albums"; the albums I'm uploading in conjunction with this post range from 5 years older than me to 18 years older than me, and they don't sound (that) dated. That being said, in this case I would say the art itself "won", not the artist. What, then, is the surefire way to determine if an artist has "made it"?

It's very simple, really: There is no way for an artist to definitively "make it".

Consider the case of Metallica. They're a band who invented a genre with their debut album, and have at least 3 definitive, almost unarguably "classic" albums, Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets (for the sake of playing devil's advocate, I'm not including the hotly contested Justice or the black album). Just a few years ago, however, the band put out what I (and many fans) would consider an awful album, St. Anger. Regardless of the album's content, I've seen statements from at least three well-respected artists saying that Metallica can do whatever they want muscially because they "won" for whichever album (usually in reference to Puppets or Black). They do have a point, in the sense of the aforementioned classic albums. However, they also put out St. Anger -- something of an extremely lacking album for a band who "won" as definitively as is said of them, don't you think? Thus is my point made: the band didn't win, as almost everyone has noticed since about 1991 until the present, the art won.

Artists cannot ever "win", in terms of the big picture. Eventually, every artist fails, either through inattention or simply through stopping recording. The art itself is what "wins". Audiences "win", as they experience the effect of art that "wins". Until artists understand this, we're going to continue to be bombarded by all this weak, sophomore-slump, "we just got a big check so we can do whatever we want, because we're famous and we WON" crap. No exceptions.

Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

Metallica - Kill 'Em All

Iron Maiden - Killers

Friday, February 23, 2007

Upload: Sonata Arctica - Winterheart's Guild

When I reviewed another Sonata Arctica album, Silence, I only had a few real complaints. One of them was the cheese factor, one of them was the bad ballad factor, and one of them was the AWFUL lyrics factor. I am pleased to say that these have been heavily mitigated with Winterheart's Guild, while both remaining true to the core sound and innovating. It's almost like they took a time machine from some time in the future and read my articles back to 2003, changed all that shit, and then went on like nothing happened. Except that would probably, y'know, open up a GIANT WARP PORTAL of redundancy. INTO HELL. Whatever, my point was that everything improved universally. Fuck.

Anywho, I was impressed right off the bat with this album. Like "Weballergy" of Silence, the first track of WG is a nice, speedy song, but with a lot less uber-gay than the other aforementioned opener and a reasonable sense of urgency. The next song really threw me for a loop the first time I really listened to it -- clocking in at 7 minutes, "Gravenimage" is definitely the best Sonata Arctica song I've ever heard, hands down. Even if the song didn't really kick in after a few verses, it would still be the best slow Sonata Arctica song. As it stands, the kick-in is probably one of their best ever, and the vocal leads within are absolutely to die for. The lyrics, the instrumentation, the non-tongue-in-cheek-ness, the structure...it all works SO well together with Sonata Arctica's unique qualities.

After that song, it remains pretty good up until "Broken"; even more "fun" songs, and even their single, "Victoria's Secret", stay mostly within the region of decent taste ("Champagne Bath", with its flanged solo and stupid lyrics, toes the line a lot). "The Misery" is a great slow song, albeit a little cheesy; it gets nowhere near the cheese levels of, say, "Tallullah", though, so even that was cut back a little. "Broken" is the one fluke bad song on the album; like "Sing in Silence" from Silence, it serves no purpose and nobody likes it. After that, though, we're back to good music: the album ends with "Ruins of My Life", a fast track, and "Draw Me", a very tasteful ballad. A very impressive effort, and one I've been listening to almost daily (especially "Gravenimage"...now THAT is an amazing song).

8.4 general, complete sound improvements out of 10.

Grab thy mouse, and with its unholy power smite the undeserving linkage

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Upload: Die Apokalyptischen Reiter - Riders on the Storm

I'm not going to lie, this album is really, really confusing from a reviewer's perspective. For one, it's diverse as all hell, while maintaining enough similar themes to seem cohesive. At its most basic core, the album plays mostly kind of like old, punk-based, 3-or-4-chord metal, with pretty decent/fitting soloing and leads, a drummer who (occasionally) goes into thrashy and deathy territory, and a vocalist who switches between guttural growling and guttural singing (in both German and occasionally English) and sounds rough and possibly slightly drunk. It's the stuff on top and between that which brings the real interest: the power metally orchestra-hits and sweep arpeggios in the intro of "Friede Sei Mit Dir", the odd prechorus acoustic guitar in "Riders on the Storm", the violin leads throughout "Seemann", the one-two of neoclassical instrumental "In the Land of White Horses" and slow song "Liebe," and many more. Almost every song (except "Revolution", almost definitely the weakest track) has some distinct quality to set it apart from the others on the album. This album is really hard to do justice in words, so I'm just going to leave it at that. All in all, a very enjoyable listen that goes good, interesting places. Not my favorite album, but definitely worth it for an interesting listen.

To sum:

7.3 riders of the apocalypse out of 10.

Interestingly, packaged with the album was a bonus track which is "Friede Sei Mid Dir" in English. No, I don't understand why they recorded it either. Whatever.

Zu downloaden Klicken

Friday, January 26, 2007

Upload: Celtic Frost - Vanity/Nemesis

This is probably the most forgotten Celtic Frost album. Granted, I understand the reasoning: it came on the heels of Cold Lake, an album even Celtic Frost admits was forced upon them by monetary concerns and heavy-handed record labels. Celtic Frost made at least a worthy effort, if not a 100% return to form, but nobody was listening, and the band broke up soon afterwards. Luckily, I have procured this forgotten album, and for you, O loyal downloaders, I am making it available. Although the album was forgotten, by no means should have it been!

The album starts off with "The Heart Beneath", which starts off slightly midpaced, but soon the drums kick in and we get a very thrashy song. Most of the album is either midpaced or slightly fast, which is good -- it fits Celtic Frost's style pretty well, and allows for Tom Warrior's trademark chordal variety to really shine in certain songs. That being said, their slower number, "Wings of Solitude", sounds like it partially invented half the non-chick goth sound (ex. Tiamat). The songs themselves sound less like, say, "Progeny" and more like "I Won't Dance"; these are mostly fun songs with an overdose of metal, and I definitely hear a hint of a Pantera-esque vibe on some songs. This does take away sometimes from the songwriting, as parts of some songs can be a little contradictory, but it usually rights itself quickly enough. The drums are nothing special for the most part -- they fit well, but the drummer isn't exactly Tomas Haake -- but the vocals often remind me of Tom trying to channel the Dave Mustaine sneer (of Megadeth; if this means nothing to you, go listen to Peace Sells, But Who's Buying on the double) or something. Female vocals are also on at least half of the songs, and they work very well (a la Into the Pandemonium). I wish the production was a little more bass-audible, but the drums, guitars, and vocals are also fairly well-mixed.

As a whole, the album plays very well; I have no issues with trackorder, and the songs seem to fit fairly well with each other. I especially like the two title tracks and how they play off each other to create a unified effect...that adds quite a bit to each. If only every album I heard was at least this good...

7.6 people with glasses on pieces of glass out of 10

Don't click here to download the album. Really.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Review: Porcupine Tree - Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun

(l to r, Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun)

Unlike my other two negative reviews, this might garner dislike from people I don't think are subhuman in intelligence level. Deal with it.

To truly describe the feeling of disappointment and betrayal I felt when hearing this album for the first time, I will require to give my (obviously unbiased) description of Steven Wilson's state of mind up until this album. Wilson started out by making a "fake" 70's prog outfit (complete with fake bio) and making music for it on several demos. After releasing an album's worth of this material (On the Sunday of Life), he decided to cut the bullshit and make the music in earnest. His first "real" album, Up the Downstair, was a great, fairly soft proggy album, filled with interludes, little jams, and other stuff to make for a very unique and interesting experience. Moving on, The Sky Moves Sideways, his next release, was a 49-minute, 5-track, 4-song monster of an album (the title track is split into 2 17-minute sections, with an intro track into the second half). Here, he moved a bit away from his original Pink Floydish material to tread often upon very modern sounds. Then, my personal favorite, Signify is published, and shit really starts being torn up in earnest, as the album had the darkest Porcupine Tree sound to that point, and was cohesive as all hell.

Sometime between 1996 and 1999, Steven Wilson snapped. Suddenly, Porcupine Tree's direction veered way the hell off. Sure, the music still had some vaguely proggy tendencies, and some tracks would remain fairly long (as average songs go). However, two important, important things changed. For one, that previous darker, more sinister underlying qualities and slight trippiness? All but gone, musically. For another, the previous sense of mission, the idea that each track was an important part of a larger picture? Abandoned, in favor of interchangeable, faceless songs. Thus did Stupid Dream come into being. And if that wasn't enough, the next album, Lightbulb Sun, subtracted any residual testosterone from the equation, making the music a fucking mess.

Each album has its high(er) points; ironically, one of the only songs on Lightbulb Sun that I could get into was "Four Chords That Made a Million", a song about selling out. I say ironically because that's what Porcupine Tree did in those two albums. I say this with no stupid scene-like preconceptions about the music industry or what music should do (though I do belive that as well); I mean this in the most basic way possible. They changed their core sound to something more marketable, thus, selling out. The song name is stupid, too -- as I have tried to show by means of Dark Lunacy, and others, a band can make a musical buffet fit for a king from a shit taco of basic ingredients. It's all in the preparation, and I think this -- to drop the food-esque metaphor, the songwriting -- is where the albums truly turn from disappointment to betrayal.

Most of the songs on the albums are either unlistenably, sickeningly happy (like the title track of Lightbulb Sun) or angsty and complaining (like every other track on Stupid Dream ). Add guitar effects here, different instruments there, slap it together with a few particularly longer songs and not-always-standard song structures so prog nerds can defend it, paste in some shitty story about being dumped that would make an emo kid snicker in schadenfreude, and go. I don't seperate the albums in this case because they are so similar in their shoddy construction. There's no point to going into the specifics on these; the albums were churned out in the same shit factory of awful music, so why bother?

For Stupid Dream:

5 stupid, unfulfilled dreams of Signify-lovers out of 10.


10 things I think Wilson stared a little too much into before recording these albums...

out of 30. Sucker.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Upload: Porcupine Tree - Signify

This is definitely one of my favorite albums ever, and I've been wanting to do this review for some time. I would describe the band's sound on this album as perhaps a much darker (lyrically and musically) Pink Floyd, sans the drugs. I don't think that description does it justice, either... this album is a truly unique experience. Like many of my favorites, one must listen to this one front to back for the full effect.

The album starts with an interestingly sampled piece, "Bornlivedie", combining phone noises with various other things and some keyboards. The piece ends with someone, in a stereotypically uninterested phone operator voice, simply saying "Signify" then hanging up a phone. From there, the album segues into the artfully fractured title track, an instrumental. The album continues on between traditional songs and more jam-like pieces. This is a concept album about apathy and avoidance, and it shows; songs like "Sleep of no Dreaming" and "Sever" have especially dark, nihilistic lyrics, and even some of the instrumentals have names like "Idiot Prayer" or "Intermediate Jesus" and include creepy or odd samples, fitting the mood very well. The album is not so much about focusing on a certain instrument or anything as it is about creating a specific mood for the song and matching lyrics almost perfectly to the mood. This results in spine-tingling combinations, such as "Every Home is Wired", a song which seems cheerful on the surface but contains much darker motives.

This is an album you have to devote time to listening through. Try it out, and it will reward you handsomely.

9 freaky-looking tied-up old-fashioned chicks out of 10.

You've just had a heavy session of electroshock therapy, and you're more relaxed than you've been in weeks. All those childhood traumas, magically wiped away...along with most of your personality.