31 March 2009

New Converge Track

In my roundup of the Converge/Genghis Tron show from last Friday I mentioned that Converge played two new tracks from their upcoming album. Turns out Metal Injection filmed the set and will be posting it in installments, which is pretty rad. Here's one of them, head over there to check out the rest of the set as they get it up (tee hee)...

30 March 2009

I Found the "[pre]" Tag

Man, sometimes I can be such a pleb. Aside from the fact that my poetry is probably mediocre at best, I stopped posting my work because I was getting frustrated trying to format lines and spaces in Blogger. A few months back when this problem started to become a headache, I searched around but only found other poets' and editors' laments about the obstacles to properly formatting poetry online. Perhaps most of those complaints were old because, sure enough, today I discovered there's an html tag, [pre], that retains preformatted material. Not sure how I missed it all the times I spent looking for tags that would help me format poetry, but it definitely exists and is definitely helpful.

So as I continue to await word on whether or not I get into a master's program in the fall, I've resumed posting my better* work over at Quietly Take To The Ship.

*—I may be a curmudgeon, but I'm no Philip Larkin

28 March 2009

Converge, Genghis Tron @ Europa, 3/27/09

Last night, as most nights at this Polish dance club-cum-hardcore venue, was an odd one. Six bands on a lineup that featured three who hold their own as headliners. According to the bill there were to be three bands (Ceremony, Rise & Fall, Pulling Teeth) before even Genghis Tron took to the stage. Coliseum was to follow GT and then Converge would top it all off.

A rather large cohort of us pregamed while the openers did their thing. None of us had heard of any of them (not that that means much), but we figured with limited energy to use, we'd rather spend it all on the big fellas. We got word that GT was playing at 11, so we headed over just before that. When we arrived some medicore hardcore-ish band was playing and nobody could tell us who they were (which should say something I think).

Tron set up their lights and keyboards then proceeded to rock. I went to college with these guys and even played with Hamilton (in a band called Storm the Bastille, hence the name of this blog). Though I supported these guys early on, I wasn't a huge fan of their early material and it really took me until last year's Board Up the House to enjoy their work. That album is pretty brilliant and now I'm getting more into Dead Mountain Mouth though I think their latest is a much more coherent, enjoyable listen. It's still challenging and disparate, but the elements all congeal perfectly whereas the earlier stuff was a bit jagged and awkward.

Anyway, I'm super stoked that GT have done so well for themselves and made a record that a lot of folks pegged for best of '08. They are awesome live and if anyone is on the fence about them, take a listen to Board Up the House. Oh, and they threw in a Big Black cover for good measure. I can't remember the title, though, because I'm lazy and stupid. But it was awesome.

When GT's set was done, they shocked the whole lot of us by announcing that the mighty Converge was on next. What happened to Coliseum? The shitty band we entered to, though they were using Coliseum's equipment, was emphatically not Coliseum. This was a huge letdown, as a bunch of us really wanted to see them. The last time I tried to catch them—at the old NorthSix—I got booted for immaturely bodyslamming a guy who kicked me in the back during the set. I don't really engage in pit antics, especially now, so I figured I'd last the whole bout this time. So it sucked that we missed them. The end.

Converge came on and took maybe three breaths between songs their whole set. It was one into the next which made for a pummeling, energy-filled performance. I've been lucky enough to have seen these guys for quite a few years now, but this was one of their best shows. The pit wasn't overwhelming to the point of ruinous, so that was a major plus, but they also pulled out the usual crowd faves like "The Saddest Day", "Locust Reign" (a particular favorite of mine), a couple from Jane Doe ("Concubine", "The Broken Vow"), a few from You Fail Me ("Last Light", "Eagles Become Vultures", and a bunch of new ones from No Heroes ("Heartache", "No Heroes"). I know I'm forgetting a couple at this point, but they also managed to squeeze in two brand new as-yet-untitled songs from the album they'll be recording in May. Both were fucking rippers, so there's no sign of letup from these guys. As long as Jacob refrains from singing on the upcoming record it should be all gravy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It would be remiss of me to mention the origins of this blog and not post the actual song. Sure, I'm totally exposing Hamilton's pre-GT life (sorry dude), but I can also lay my claim to being GT's 4th member, as I'm 87% positive that my (lack of) drum skillz led directly to Ham's use of programmed drums. (No, I no longer play drums, as a few years ago I returned to the guitar, which I am much, much better at.) If anyone likes this Storm the Bastille (not to be confused with the PA screamo band) track, get in touch.

Storm the Bastille - "Spaceship Bastille"

23 March 2009

The Murder

Hola amigos, just stoppin' in to let you know Chad, Matt & Rob have a new interactive adventure up that you should go check out. I won on the first try!

These guys are awesome. If you haven't watched any of their videos, go do that now because I know you're just procrastinating anyway.

18 March 2009

Kylesa - Static Tensions

Man, I've missed seeing Kylesa the past couple times they've come through town and now I'm feeling kinda silly about being lazy like that. In some fashion or another I seem to have missed every advance review of their latest, Static Tensions, that just came out yesterday. I knew it was coming, but I just didn't read anything about it. That's probably for the best anyhow, since my ignorance left me with no biases going into this listen.

Gotta say I'm quite pleased. They still have the awesome sludge/psychedelic/hardcore thing going on, but they up the ante a bit by throwing in some more metal riffs into the mix. I've always enjoyed Kylesa's vocals; Phil's and Corey's gruff, tuneful deliveries contrast beautifully with Laura's haunting, angel-of-doom-in-a-nightmare singing. I also love that Laura just plain piledrives her own growls in there for good measure just to revel in the fact that she can sing and scream in equal measure. I could be mistaken but I think she has more parts on this new one than I remember, though I'm most likely wrong. Anyway, I really dig it.

When I first heard that they'd be opening—alongside Intronaut, whose latest, Prehistoricisms is rapidly growing on me—for Mastodon I was a bit taken aback. There's the whole heavy Georgia thing they share, but Kylesa has always been more "hardcore" in my mind than "metal" (not that they're exclusive). This album changes that for me, as it's a much more "metal"-ish release and snuggles them nicely in that ambiguous zone between labels that's often the signifier for an original, noteworthy act. Not sure why they have two drummers, still, as I couldn't notice any points where it's actually necessary (no Dale & Coady f'n around anywhere to be heard) and, thus, is superfluous. But the drumming is solid, if unspectacular and provides a foundation for the other three members to experiment a little more (perhaps this aspect is why they're still "hardcore" in my head).

Definitely worth picking up, in my opinion, and this may have pushed me back into the "yeah, I'll hit up the Mastodon show after all" camp. Well done and now I know what I'll be listening to on my way to work tomorrow.

17 March 2009

The Most Fun I've Had In Years

March Madness is upon us, which also signals the time of year when many a whimsical "final four" type bracket appears to help us keep sanity at work. I wish I had know of this before, but Name of the Year is hosting its second annual "Name of the Year" Tournament. Throughout 2008 people sent in their favorite goofy (and real!!!) names as candidates for this award. Filling out one of these brackets is far, far, far more difficult than doing an NCAA bracket. It's also way funnier.

Print out brackets and get your friends together for a tournament that really matters: the Best Name of the Year.

14 March 2009

Addendum to Crack the Skye

This afternoon, in between working on some posts for Tilzy.tv, I've been taking in another listen to Mastodon's latest to see what kind of effect it has on me during non-drunken weekend hours. It's not as terrible as I originally thought, and "Divinations" (the song with the awesome video) is pretty rad, but overall this is an album of filler material.

While chatting right after the first listen, I made the comparison of Mastodon to Tool, with the caveat that Mastodon was able to squeeze in one more awesome album before releasing a steaming pile of overproduced radio bollocks. I absolutely hate everything Tool released after ├ćnima and although I'm enjoying Crack the Skye more than Lateralus (10,000 Days was just an abomination in my book), that isn't saying much.

As I said in my initial post a lot of the vocals on here are just too saccharine and radio-safe (though I'm typing to Scott Kelly rocking on the title track and this part I do like, until the background comes in and ruins it). One thing that's apparent is that these guys are trying new things and experimenting. While that's great and ultimately necessary, I'm wondering why nobody told them that they don't have the chops to sing, nor does the vocal style they've appropriated fit with the rest of their sound.

The most egregious examples of all my issues with this album can be found in the fourth track, "The Czar". This track is little more than consumer pabulum and makes me question a lot of the decision-making of everyone involved in its production (kinda like the film Showgirls). Every track on the album (the final track, "The Last Baron", was not on any pre-release copies, so I've yet to hear it) has at least a few parts that rip, only to be pulled back down by what is presumably an experiment gone awry, but after a decent intro "The Czar" afterward fails in almost every respect.

After Blood Mountain came out it was pretty clear that Mastodon had crossed a bridge. No longer were they going to be beasts of sludgy, hardcore-influenced prog metal, but that was fine. A maturation process occured for them as a band and, though it took me a couple listens to really get into parts of that album, I really came to love it. I don't get that vibe from this latest effort at all. With a few more listens I'll come to accept it and enjoy parts of it, but overall I'm just not happy with the results. I was expecting something different, but they took some different turns than I would have.

In an email about this to my boy Wayne over at Hooks So Big I mentioned that the vocals weren't my biggest problem, but after this listen, I think they actually are. "The Czar" sucks and all, but the title track and the opener, "Oblivion" could have been fucking killer ripping tracks that were undone by shitty vocals (Scott Kelly excluded). I concluded that email to Wayne by saying this:
I NEED THEM TO ROCK ME LIKE AN AFGHAN ADULTERER not rock me to sleep. you know what album has great clean(er/ish) vocals, great melodies and harmonies and also rocks the fuck out? Enslaved's Vertebrae. i can't stop listening to that motherfucker and it keeps getting better. that's what i was hoping from mastodon and they didn't really deliver.
So I guess these are my final thoughts on the matter for a little while. As a topic of conversation this album has certainly been on many, many people's lips, which is a good thing. Intelligent disscussion about music is always a good thing, some measure of consolation here at least. I'm still torn on whether or not I want to see this performed live, but as far as I know the shows are sold out or anything, keeping my window of opportunity open lest I decide to take the leap through.

Anyway, time to put on some Morbid Angel and get back to writing for work.

11 March 2009

Mastodon - Crack the Skye

It's everybody's least favorite phrase to hear, but it must be uttered; "I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed."

The other night—last Friday, to be precise—Nick, Sam and I were engaging in our usual bout of drinking post-BSG. At approximately 4AM, sufficiently greened and oated, we put on a copy of Crack the Skye that Nick had gotten (actual album drops 3/24). Here are the unedited notes that I jotted down about 6/7ths of the way through the album:

it kinda blows. i'm disappointed
i r can make and will make a better
album than this.
there is no ROCK! you left
it all out and overthought.
some passes, phrases, riffs
work, but not for length

right now i'm still kinda freaked out
because these are the first
Mastodon songs I've ever
No Good. Ugh.
You heard that correctly, I did not like it. Sure, I saw the (awesome) video for "Divinations" and that song is pretty good, but let's all admit it would have been one of the weaker tracks on Blood Mountain. As it turns out that is the best song on the album by a distance.

I'm not at all sure what the fellas were thinking, perhaps they were thinking too much. Nick's theory was that they all got carried away with people discussing all the singing on Blood Mountain and went that direction. While the singing was a little much (almost, but not quite as bad as on Cynic's new record Traced In Air, which is instrumentally great and vocally horrendous), I'm most disappointed in Brann. His rhythms are far too straightforward here, like he decided to dumb himself down so that people could groove on the guitars or something. Well, the guitars don't really groove and a lot of the passes are unremarkable and boring; the rhythms are tweaked just as a cover-up attempt at making a bad part more interesting.

For the past few days I've avoided posting anything regarding the album because I needed to do a bit of grieving. Now, I've accepted the fact that Mastodon have made a bad album, it was probably just a matter of time. If they're as good as we've all thought and seen, they'll follow this up with something spectacular. Unfortunately, this spark of hope does nothing to help me resolve my quandary over whether to attend their upcoming Brooklyn show in May. It's the day after my birthday and Kylesa (whose new album I've yet to hear) and Intronaut (whose latest, Prehistoricisms is pretty good, but a bit too wanky and disjointed) will be opening. I'd really love to see them. The major question is if I want to listen to Crack the Skye in its entirety and upon this listen, I'd rather not...

04 March 2009

2009 Is Going To Be A Kickass Music Year

If early signs are any indication of how the whole year may transpire, 2009 could turn out to be an amazing year for heavy music. I just caught Witch last week and, though it wasn't as great a performance as I would have hoped, it was a good warm up. Perhaps the economic climate is such that bands have no choice but to hit the road (which is paradoxical, since fans presumably have less money to spend at them), nevertheless they're out and they're out en masse.

I didn't get to Atlanta's Scion Rock Fest, but by all accounts it was pretty awesome. That event alone should portend good things for all things heavy, at least in the short term. If corporations are going to sponsor entertainment events, I'd much rather have them fund an event featuring the top tier of heavy music than, say, some sporting event (though what happened to Nachtmystium was stupid and unfortunate).

Anyway, here are some of the things to look forward to this year:

* Melvins silver anniversary shows
* Mastodon: new album, Crack the Skye (release March 24)
and tour with Neurosis
* Converge: tour w/Coliseum & Genghis Tron. (And recording in May, from what I hear)
* Kylesa & Intronaut will be opening for The Haunted & Nachtmystium and then switching gears to open for the Mastodon/Neurosis tour!

All this will be happening between now and the end of May. The Mastodon/Neurosis/Kylesa/Intronaut shows here in NYC/BK will be an incredible birthday gift for yours truly and I'm psyched to see Converge and Genghis Tron at the end of this month. Maybe the second half of the year will suck taint, but if this first half proves as incredible as it looks on paper, then it'll take something catastrophic to render the whole year even mediocre.

Looks like I was completely wrong about the Neurosis thing. My mistake, I guess I misread the report from Scion.