Grim Observations (2/14/20)

It’s Valentine’s Day (or Waifu Appreciation Day), so in order to celebrate this momentous occasion I have yet another installment of Grim Observations! I slept in a little late today as I’d been watching old movies with the waifu all night, but I feel that I’m refreshed enough to hammer down several of the albums that I’ve received in my mailbox as well as some physical submissions. Also, my apologies to zhOra as that record was covered a wee bit early, it doesn’t release until next month.

I have to start with death metallers Brain Stem, who melted my face off with Symptoms Of Annihilation – Stage 2. This slightly techy death metal came pummeling out of my headset, offering a lot more meat and potatoes than another band I heard in a similar vein this week, Disfiguring The Goddess. That record was called Katerpillar and I found it nearly intolerable compared to this. The disc here is only about sixteen minutes and it outshined a record that was twice as long. Brain Stem are an act that doesn’t stick to one key and one damn tempo over and over again. I’m not getting the same damn song over and over again. It is so fucking monotonous and boring to me when you get these one note bands who somehow manage to be signed because I guess one of those guys knew someone on the label. No way in hell I would have signed those guys – but these guys I think would be signed in a heartbeat. Personally though, I don’t think bands should be signing with anyone these days. Once again, Stage 2 is only sixteen minutes long and it’ll keep your attention throughout the whole listen. There’s no dull drumming, no technicality for the sake of technicality – these gentlemen know how to write riffs. The vocals aren’t strictly growls, but they do have a touch of deathcore that I’m not going to turn my nose up at, because it clearly works. And again, there’s substance here. The disc is catchy as hell and it makes you want to jam it again. There are very few discs these days that make me want to jam them again. I can’t necessarily agree with the lyrical content in “Digitally Enshrined” as I am a futurist and transhumanist, so if people want to call me an ist, they can call me that kind of ist. I will say that the lyrics are written quite poetically and I found them a rather enjoyable read. Stage 2 is short, but it makes me look forward to Stage 3 because there’s obviously something of value and you can tell that the guys put some work into this material. Happy to have it on my shelf.

Next I have Mark Morton‘s Ether EP. Though he was able to get Lzzy Hale and Howard Jones on vocals for this one among others, I have to say that the performance is literally just regurgitated radio rock, pop-country and hard rock that I heard back in the nineties. There’s even a cover of “Black” here by either The Stone Temple Pilots or God forbid Pearl Jam, who play constantly on my local classic rock radio station. Definitely some grunge band that still plays on my (this is the joke) modern rock radio station. Yeah, that was modern twenty years ago but now I’m in my thirties and Nirvana is classic rock. My co-host was talking about this a few days ago, how the kind of music that we used to listen to in high school is now considered dated by the zoomers and pretty soon it’ll move from classic rock to golden oldies. This whole disc reeked of corporate alternative rock and I don’t really have much good to say about it. But it’s obvious that Mark Morton is getting tired of heavy metal music as happens, and he wanted to make a record that sounds more like the kind of music he grew up with. That’s fine and there’s an audience for it. I’m sure my co-host would love the thing. Though as far as I’m concerned, it’s nothing really new. In fact, it feels like a retro-nineties rock album.

Former Worlds also released Iterations Of Time, which is a four track mixture of post-hardcore with some doom and death metal elements. There’s a male and female vocalist here which balance out pretty well with each other as she’ll go into into cleans (but has quite a rasp) and he’ll perform the chunkier death metal growls. That being said, she’s a hell of a vocalist and certainly brings almost a black metal tinge to the performance that I find pretty inviting. There’s a large amount of atmosphere being developed here, almost making you feel as though you’re in a dark, mystical cavern. Maybe like Mystic Cave Zone from Sonic 2, but not quite as dark. The disc weighs in at a good forty minutes and there really isn’t a cut that I found to be filler or out of place – it all works as a whole. Especially when the synths start to elevate the journey and truly make me think that I’m in a cave on some other world. There’s definitely something here and Former Worlds have given us more than enough time to discover it. If you wanted a heavier, dirtier, chunkier version of SubRosa, then you’re getting it here. It is really difficult for me to not imagine this record being performed inside of a cavern to be honest, I swear that I can smell the dirt on the side of the walls. It’s kind of like a grey dirt, that’s just what I’m seeing in my head. The band should really do their videos in caverns, even though that is extremely dangerous because they could be caved-in and I don’t think anyone wants that situation. The whole tribal, atmospheric sense of the thing combined with such an unexpected degree of savagery makes for an experience that I think more people should be checking out – and those synths really do make a difference. Don’t get rid of that keyboardist, because it would just come off like regular old post metal at that point. The synths really bring this experience to life in more ways than one. Maybe the keyboardist is the unsung hero here, but your work in the band matters. Keep making weird synths, because that brings out the otherworldly in this whole experience.

I’ve gotta admit that the cover art for this new Fluisteraars album, Bloem is quite different than one would expect from a standard black metal album. It’s a springtime scene with beautiful red flowers, although to be fair, the sky looks a bit pale in some instances and it looks like it’s about to rain. I suppose black metal is getting tired of frost covered landscapes and feel it is time for something a bit more inviting. The record as a whole feels like a mixture of classic black metal, yet with some slight post-rock elements as well as some atmospheric pieces. The opener “Tere Murr” comes off rather standard-fare for black metal, but as we get to “Nasleep” we see a great dip from the classic formula. The drums cool down and allow for more melody to peak through the clouds. There’s a couple of weird experiences as the whole thing just changes direction altogether to allow for slight “tings” and what eventually rolls into an unexpected guitar solo. There’s a piano behind it as well, so the whole thing just becomes completely emotional. While not a shreddy solo, this is a standout moment for the guitar, so it feels apt to call it a solo piece. With “Eeuwige Ram” the performance shifts altogether into a more folk-oriented direction as even the vocal style changes. There’s even a slight horn in the background that can’t be heard well enough, even though that would have been great. Maybe you’ll have to adjust your sound settings so that it comes off better. I for one, love when horns and guitar solos mix. When we come back to “Vlek” I find that the band spoiled me with all the interesting quirks, so I’m kind of upset that they’ve gone back to basic black metal again. I’ve never been more disappointed by blast beats in my life, to be honest. However, the sound does move from that (thankfully) and brings back the melody In addition to some orchestral pieces that I’ll admit I’m also having trouble hearing (though that could be on my end). The lead riffs on this one are truly something to behold, if I’m honest – and I’m really pleased with just how grandiose this sounds. I’m actually reminded of early Opeth and that’s quite refreshing. The last cut on the disc is “Maanruine” which rolls into acoustic territory as you might expect. That’s usually predictable for these kinds of albums, though it cares the same amount of heart and glorious melodic grandeur that came before it. At the end of the day, there’s black metal here and that’s all fine and dandy, but there are parts of Bloem which I found to be a spectacle – a literal sit down, shut up and listen to the music kind of thing. You don’t come across that sort of thing too often, especially today. I’m actually at the point where I get tired of black metal and maybe we’re not as “grim” as we used to be. But I was quite satisfied with this offering and I think that people who are tired of black metal will find something in it as well.

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