Since the Groupees Addicted Bundle is now live, I figured I may as well give my thoughts on several of the albums contained within it. I hope you all enjoy the bundle!
Brom – Nebula (2014) – First up, I have what I would consider to be an acid jazz album, reminding me a little of Naked City and parts of the Cowboy Beebop soundtrack. Apparently this record was reviewed poorly, but I think that’s because the reviewer didn’t really get it. It’s not about music for music’s sake here. I don’t think you can casually listen to something like this, rather you’re getting a drug trip level of instrumentation that lifts you up and takes you right into the unknown. Now, there are mellowed sections where the listener is given a chance to breathe, but things can become rather frantic at the drop of a hat. Due to it’s bizarre album cover, I wasn’t really sure what kind of music I was going to be getting here, but I’m quite pleased with it at the end of the day and I think that if you give it a chance, you’ll find the journey well worth taking. Perhaps Nebula isn’t for everyone, but I certainly feel that the title fits. Acid jazz fans need to make a mental note of this one.
The Grand Astoria – The Mighty Few (2015) – From the minute that I first heard The Grand Astoria, I knew that they were a phenomenal act that was only going to get more phenomenal over time. This is their sixth album, what I would consider to be a progressive metal onslaught that may even give Opeth and Dream Theater a run for their money. It’s not what they do vocally that makes them significant, even though I’d consider that section personally neccessary in a lyrical context. Rather, it’s what these gentlemen can do instrumentally and the atmosphere that they create on this album that keeps me coming back. There are a great deal of freakout moments and jam sessions to be had here that I found to be quite stellar. Sometimes pounding doom riffs enter the scene, but occasionally we’ll find sixties throwback moments that truly recall the best of that era. I also love the horn sections at the very end of the album, which of course are on the tour-de-force “The Siege” which showcases the band at their absolute best. This is a definite progressive metal album and maybe not quite as weird as some of the other approaches that the label offers, but it delivers in spades. The Grand Astoria are criminally unrecognized and could certainly use a larger fanbase and promotional outlet. Especially considering the fact that the band is about to release their seventh album, again; with not nearly the level of recognition that they deserve. When I hear a band that is as skilled and true to the spirit of progressive rock and doom metal as these gentlemen are, I find myself wondering what in the hell these rock and metal rags are doing promoting far more simplistic bands with what I’d consider a high school level of talent, at best. Anyone can write riffs, but the kinds of worthwhile compositions that you’ll find here are only crafted by master musicians.
Groggy – Distant Lands (2016) – Here we have a weird acoustic album from a garage duo. It’s considered to be a mixture of southern rock, blues, folk music and something called moog – which may be the sort of dreary undertone I get from it. There’s something awfully ominous about the album, which you notice in spurts. I feel as though I’m walking in a swamp, and a swamp monster is following me, but every time I turn around to see if there’s anything behind me – nothing appears. There’s an obvious country twang, almost reminding me of Down in some instances, but without the heavy and bass and distortion. Groggy could have added distortion for a metallic edge, but then they would sound like every stoner doom band out there; so I’m glad that they stuck with the acoustics. The odd sound effects that appear here and there only lend to the intrigue of it all, as I really have no idea what I’m going to run into while I’m travelling through this swamp. The record isn’t all that long, but it achieves what it sets out to do and in my opinion, it sort of fits the mold for something like Wrong Turn or at least what the inhabitants of that particular area might play while they torture their victims. Don’t get me wrong though, as they record has some rather chill moments too and I’ve no doubt that as mutated as those characters were in the film, they probably smoked quite a bit of weed. Even Jason had a weed field in the latest reboot, so I look at Distant Lands as the kind of bizarre music that these fiendish characters might enjoy on their downtime. After all, Jason has to do something when he’s not killing teenagers.
Soom – Night On The Meadow (2014) – What I would consider to be a mix of post metal and heavy atmosphere not unlike some of the discs I used to get from Malignant Records back in the day; Soom deliver this style in a bizarre fashion that I just haven’t heard from other bands. It’s not just the thick level of chanting apparent on the release (aside from bouts of harsh and clean vocals) that sold me, it’s also the way that weird synth effects ebb and flow throughout the recording, giving off the feeling that it has been possessed. You can absolutely headbang to the super-heavy bits of distortion found here, but there’s an overarching theme of sorts that I find is captured most wonderfully through the interludes, which can range anywhere from just a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Usually I would skip these things, but Night On The Meadow feels so cohesive that I have to give it the full run or I’m not doing the experience justice, as pretentious as that may sound. Sure, there will be selections from this material that you might consider to be more proficient than others, but I feel that it is necessary to listen to the disc in it’s entirety at least once. Like many of the recordings I’ve been offered by Addicted Records, I think that Night On The Meadow shows it’s true strength as a standalone experience.
Flower In My Lung – Flower In My Lung (2013) – While the post rock influences have been noted, what I think people need to really take note of is the sheer amount of sadness running through this piece. Oddly enough, sometimes these depressingly morose atmospheres are coupled with what I find to be boisterous rounds of progressive instrumentation, which offsets the entire thing at times and makes the whole thing sound bipolar. It’s happy as a lark for one miniute and then suicidal the next. Dashboard Confessional comparisons have been noted, but thank goodness that the record is instrumental and doesn’t feature any of those godawful glassy vocals from the aforementioned frontman. Flower In My Lung actually understand that music can be depressing in itself without lyrics about how much you miss and worship your ex-girlfriend, which I find to be rather pathetic. The sentiment here can be used to describe things that are far more painful, like the death of a loved one or the horrible acts that humans can commit in the name of war or business. Again, there are a few happier moments here, but even the dreamy “Cloudy” seems a bit pale and doesn’t seem to offer any silver lining to this incredibly dark cloud. Maybe it does tend to go a bit nineties exercise commercial at times, but we’ll forgive it for that as this weird bipolar mix of happiness, sadness and Arnold Schwarzenegger yelling, “Get to the choppa!” might be one of the more interesting listens I’ve had this year.
Evil Bear Boris – Das Ist Boris (2013) – This three track offering is kind of neat, with three different kinds of emotions, each captured on a different track. The first is “Fight Club” which makes me think a bit of the arcade version of Final Fight crossed over with screaming guitars that sound right out of an eighties film. The heavy synth is also welcome as it reminds me greatly of a video game I haven’t played. This should have been the intro to something. I would be jamming at the title screen right now. The second one is the group’s namesake, which also has that sort of synthy game mix that comes off a bit seventies and Batman live action theme, along with some kind of weird vocal noises and is that a violin? Why? Why not? Why not, I say in the land where anything goes? Again, where is the game that this is the soundtrack for and when can I play it? The final track here is “Geheimnisse des Dritten Reichs” which takes the whole album into another direction. I feel like the whole plot of the game just changed into something that might fit an updated Wolfenstein. It also feels a bit movie trailer, I’m just waiting for something to blow up, so that the guitars can kick up distortion and the drums can start blasting. The female vocal harmonization in the back lends to even more of a movie trailer theme. The piece is extremely lengthy and quite orchestral, but doesn’t feature any moments where the guitars became heavily prominent and would have backed loud explosions, gunfire or just a couple of flying fists to the face. Even so, I’m quite impressed.
Disen Gage – The Screw-Loose Entertainment (2004) – As you might have guessed, this is their first one and it’s certainly strong for a debut. Which is why the label reissued it this year, as well they should have. In a world of Mr.Bungle and Estradasphere clones, Disen Gage stand on their own as one of the strangest bands ever conceived. You can’t simply place the mood here on a single song, because I am telling you that there are no rails and this crazy train just keeps on going. There’s an obvious sense of jazz rolling through the whole album, but we may as well call it progressive experimental jazz rock at this stage in the game. I’m reminded a little of Secret Chiefs 3 and I think you will be too, but that’s a good thing as the experiences you’ll unravel here are like digging through underground ruins looking for treasure, which you’ll certainly find. There’s something for everyone here and Disen Gage pulled out all the stops early – this early in their career and they were already going above and beyond the call of duty! What’s more, is these guys actually have played some live sets and you’ll get three live bonus tracks of “Solaris”, “Chinagroove V.17” and the non-album track “Theme.” Usually debuts can be hit or miss. Some bands release their best material first and some their worst, but I can honestly say that Disen Gage fans will be more than happy with this one and if you like any of the comparison acts I’ve mentioned, then I would find it very hard to believe why you wouldn’t like Disen Gage.
Disen Gage – Libertage (2006) – If you thought their debut was unhinged, then let me tell you about this experiment. Basically, the guys felt restrained so they thought that they’d just do the whole thing as an improv. You heard me right, everything you hear on this record is completely off the cuff. “Entree” and “The Crash” still sound a bit too similar to the material from the debut, but when “Attaque De Blindes” comes into play, then we’re getting into some really weird shit. I don’t think that Disen Gage were making music for human beings at this point, which makes me think that they were possibly trying to combine a series of sounds together that could communicate with otherworldly beings, extraterrestrials or things at the bottom of the ocean. Now I’m trying to remember what happened in 2006, which was kind of a blur as I’d just left high school and was becoming an adult, a feat I’ve still yet to master in my thirties. As you might suspect, the record veers off into strange territory, which I can admit that I don’t quite understand. Yet the drumming still manages to remain cohesive throughout. On a track like “H151” I’m taken into a dimension that I can’t even roughly describe. The synths truly carry the weight here, making for an experience that I find to be nothing short of mind-blowing. Ultimately, fans will not be displeased with this wild ride. Libertage begins on a familair note, but ends somewhere on the other side of Jupiter.
Disen Gage – The Reverse May Be True (2008) – On their third recording, the band finally releases all sense of sanity and just dives off the bridge. However, this is actually far more varied than their previous outing and I found it to be one of their best releases. With so many different kinds of moods and emotions to be found on the album, with titles equaling out to the same amount of crazy as the tracks they’re named for, Disengage haven’t just pulled out all the stops; they’ve removed the ground, sky and all surrounding elements that would have structurally contained any stops that were pulled. This is also one of the first albums where heavier distortion is utilized in the band, so there are some metal moments to be had here which were not to be found in previous albums. “Landing” makes a good example of that, with several notable moments to be found in “To Kill Kenny” and “Ikar’s Guide To The Galaxy” which features bizarre shouting for some unknown reason. The synths are also played up a bit on this record, which match up well with the increased distortion. A heavier sound overall makes for impressive solo moments which again, do sound very metal and less like the progressive rock of their earlier efforts. It’s good to hear Disen Gage embracing metal at this stage in the game and that also balances out well with the world music soundscapes and other oddities that they’ve utilized in their past. I would definitely consider this to be Disen Gage’s most adventurous album and I’d consider it to be on par with their current releases. That being said, the guitar solos that appeal on this album definitely appeal to the metalhead in me and it’s a great thing to finally see that these guys enjoy the sounds of metal as much as they do with everything else they have utilized over the years. It’s fair to say The Reverse May Be True is the first time that these guys have embraced heavier distortion than previous efforts and I’m certainly not complaining about it. I’m aware that not everything has to be heavy, but you can’t help me being a metalhead either.
Detieti – In General Terms (2015) – Considered the founders of the Russian frogressive scene heavily influenced by Frank Zappa and Mike Patton (bro, do you even know you have this kind of influence in Russia?) there’s no shortage of interesting moods here. And oh yeah, this is a pretty incredible album. However, you’ve really got to prepare yourself for it because it is all over the place in a good way. I’ll be frank, not everyone is going to be able to process all of the transitions here and they might consider it “throwing paint on the wall” but you have to really open your palette a little bit more and realize that punk, jazz, reggae, metal and everything else that you could ever imagine can definitely play together as long as they’re mixed right. Also, these guys really seem to like the themes to eighties television shows. “Sucre Dans Rebelle” reminds me of the end credits to Night Court, which will definitely date the living hell out of me – but let’s face it, I’ve been around a bit. Then like everything else, heavy distortion comes into play and you’re headbanging a little bit. If you saw IT Chapter 2 recently, then I think a carnival killer like “Vstupka” which even starts to sound a bit like T.O.O.H. in some areas might seem like the perfect theme for our old pal, Pennywise. Then we get into “Homonoid Relictum” which sounds like a mix of punk, jazz and death metal. Yes, you heard that right. There’s even some breakdowns on the track, I think people’s heads would explode when you put all that together. I know that we have increasingly shorter attention spans because of social media programming, but I still think that people will fail to grasp the amount of awesomeness emanating from one track. There’s even a near-perfect horror soundtrack shoved in just to keep my mouth hanging open. Who are these guys and from what dimension did they crawl out of? What in the heck are we going to summon with all this at one time? This is literally the equivalent of adderall and attention deficit disorder mixed into one, with a little bit of adrenaline and LSD on the side. As the record moves further towards it’s end, things go into a completely different direction which feels somewhere towards disembodiment and the astral dimensions. This record is the audio equivalent of Yume Nikki, as there are so many worlds in which to explore – almost making the whole thing sound like a dream. In General Terms is magnificent, to say the very least and if you’re looking for something truly out there and adventurous, then you need to get your mitts on this one.
Ciolkowska – Showed Her Face (2016) – The final album I have for this spotlight is a small cosmic post-rock offering. It is only just a few minutes over a half hour of music; but it mixes space and distortion well enough. Unlike most of the releases I’ve covered, this recording has vocals. The ukelele implementation brings about a dreamy folk sense that carries the listener away in a cloud, never coming on too brackish or screamy at times, which can be the case with some of these recordings. Even on the hefty “Pistol Of The Future” which is an udUbrenje cover, the record never comes full-force into slaughter and even features a few chirping birds and industrialisms that feel right at home for a disc from a band that seem to be more focused in space than on the ground below them. Considering the state of our world, I cannot blame them. “Dedicated To You Pilots” is an absolutely great way to capture this feeling, where I’m even wondering if the record itself wasn’t partially recorded in space, which might soon become a trend for musicians over the next couple of decades.