Sorry to keep doing this to you, but it is hard to get motivated to do a high quality post when I spend most of my day writing and editing a huge thesis. Just like last month, I’ll give a bunch of stuff I’ve been listening to and some brief thoughts on it.
Let’s start with the one that’s going to get me into trouble. Behemoth’s The Satanist has rave reviews everywhere. Even my sources that I thought I could trust to tear it down from its pillar did the opposite. I’m not saying it is bad. I think it does a pretty good job at what it does. It even has some good parts.
I just find the thing as a whole so uninteresting. To me, it is mostly stock metal. If you tell someone you like metal, this is the type of generic thing they probably hear in their head. This album actually gets really commercial and poppy at times. Just listen to the last track. It is basically a poppy cover of a Gojira song. I have to stop myself from laughing when the vocals come in. I think the album can be enjoyable when you’re in the mood for something like this, but why the praise?
Next up, Artificial Brain’s Labyrinth Constellation. This is the album I’ve liked the most this month. For the most part it takes a lot of old school death metal ideas and combines them with some more modern ideas. The modern parts remind me a bit of Ulcerate, because they do the same construction of dissonance by moving a second away from their home base pitch. This happens enough to warrant comparison, but not enough to feel as static as Ulcerate.
This album runs through lots of different compositional devices to develop songs. They even have some nice counterpoint ideas that happen in some of the songs (the first track comes to mind). Maybe the production is a little too slick to call it classic death metal, but I think they keep that spirit while still sounding fresh and modern. I’ve been loving this one. Probably 8.5 or 9/10.
Next, Soreption’s Engineering the Void. This is another one that has gotten rave reviews. I don’t really see it. This is a tech-death album, and I think it is really great when it is at its techiest. Strangely, the fast stuff is not that. The fast stuff just sounds like your standard fare, and I forget anything about it soon after the album ends.
The stuff that stays with me are the down tempo parts. These tend to have the most interesting rhythmic complexity which gets executed really well. It is also all audible because of the reasonable speed. These parts tend to be extremely brutal, creative, and all-around worth listening to. Unfortunately, this isn’t most of the album.
Next, Cynic’s Kindly Bent to Free Us. I’m not sure this fits into a metal review list except that it’s Cynic. This is a really solid prog rock album. If you liked Traced in Air, then you’ll probably love this. It sounds to me like a pretty obvious evolution from that sound. I’ve been listening to this when I go running, and it is great feel-good, energetic music for that.
I think you have to review this for what it is. There is the fretless bass and other jazz fusion elements which might turn hardcore metalheads off. As long as I ignore the lyrics, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this one. Honestly, the lyrics might be enough to completely ruin the album though. They make me cringe when I hear them come through.
We get such gems as:
Pop snap crackle and pop
Science fiction memory
Illuminates the heart
Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around
Last up, Helms Alee’s Sleepwalking Sailors. This is my other favorite of the month. They can’t be easily categorized. It is part sludge, but sometimes the clean, harmonized vocals come in and it sounds more like indie rock or something. The mix sounded awkward to me at first, but after a few times through I started to really like it.
I wouldn’t say they are a “technical” band, but they do a lot of interesting time and harmonic things that you might expect from bands coming from that angle. It is pretty subtle, so it all fits within the context of the song. The songs are mostly through composed, so they keep evolving and changing which makes things stay interesting and fresh, but they stay coherent by keeping some thematic material through the whole thing.
Helms Alee are very difficult to describe, but have also rejuvenated me after being so annoyed at how similar and uninteresting everything has been sounding to me lately. This one is also 8.5 or 9/10. Here’s a sample (I’d also put Artificial Brain here, but I couldn’t find anything except the whole album on youtube):