Friday, June 29, 2012

Okketehm - Stones Review #2 / Diseased Oblivion Review #4

Via Metal Core Webzine.

Okketaehm - Stones: 

"Wow was this some pretty damn good raw as fuckin hell black metal. This band can create a mood and just sink you in with feeling and emotion. The riffs, the style of music, the way it is played and the vocals all play a part in this. This isn’t just saw fly by night black metal band screaming about satan and all that. Sure this is fast and raw, but to me black metal is a lot about feeling and emotion and this had both. This easily comes from the pits of hell."

 Diseased Oblivion - Portals of Past and Present:

"All this was to me was a bunch of senseless guitar and keyboard parts that sounded like a storm was approaching. It is one riff repeated over and over with some guy just growling very low into a mic saying nothing every now and then. It sounds like a thunderstorm to me with the vocals being the lighting. To me this isn’t even music and I can’t see how anybody would even like this at all. This I can say is the worst black metal shit I have ever heard in my 25 years of reviewing metal."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ummon - Retreat

I don't know if in France they have McDonald's with the ball pits and play areas but it's like tossing your newborn into the circus colored plastic balls and then realizing the play area is full of knives and needles and other evil menacing instruments. That's Ummon's demo Retreat. While that may sound like a tempting morsel for metal fans looking for the most extreme, Ummon have taken that combination of sweet and evil and turned it into a rather confusing style that I personally can't seem to enjoy. It may be the overzealous drum tone which sounds like slamming the lid on an assortment of empty resin garbage cans, it may be the infusion of jazz and lounge elements which make even the demo's most metallic moments sound like impromptu jam sessions with no direction or it may be the release's rhythmic section which is the rhythmic equivalent of peeling back your toenails with the head of a ball peen hammer. I guess this just isn't my thing.

The three songs occupy a running time of just over sixteen minutes which, luckily for me is all I need to come the conclusion that none of the three songs has anything remotely worthy of replay. First track, "Lost found Lost," starts the clusterbang off with something between Napalm Death and Fluerty with a heavy leaning towards the latter's album Department of Apocalyptic Affairs minus the everything positive about that album. Gone are the smooth vocals, the mellow relaxing sections and the genuinely well composed tracks. There is no composition here... just moment after moment of written on the spot, "then-we-should-do-this" amateur compositional awareness we see of high school bands trying to imitate their cursory knowledge of metal. Once the second track, the title track "Retreat," runs through it's motions, I've taken the hammer and moved to my fingernails, trying to rip my fingers out of their sockets for being the accomplice to the crime of even pressing the play button. They must die for this.

I will give the band the satisfaction of being decent musicians, however their ability to play their instruments has been compromised by their ability to ruin my lunch break. I could have been sitting in my car starting to work on my review of Countess' "On The Wings of Defiance," - another doozy but we'll get to that at a later time after I review the endless history of Count Orlok's sole addition to the annals of human culture. The playing on Ummon's release is, as stated rather good, with everything being in time with each other and such. It at least makes the release listenable from the standpoint of I can tell what sections are intended to sound like; I'm still unsure if they sound like they are supposed to. Additionally, final track "Children of Boredom," has some interesting vocal experimentation. Don't let that fool you though... I would only seek this out if you are solely interested in tracking down something to piss your girlfriend off on a long car drive, irritate your friends on your way to see a show or are in need of a soundtrack to self mutilation. 

Did Ummon spell their own band's name wrong?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wendess - Nuee Noire

Wendess return with a new flood of material, raked together to form a new album, Nuee Noire. I reviewed Wendess' original album in Contaminated Tones Zine #1. It was an atmosphere heavy, patient introduction to a band that I felt would continue to coalesce and create it's own style. Elements of that first release appear once again on these new five tracks. The airy-ness of the self titled album reappears to great effect, now completely realized and mature. So while the amateur wings of Wendess were enough to lift the listener into the sky on the first release, there was a shaky quality that reminded me of the small "cityhopper" planes I used while touring Germany. They worked but I didn't know if I could entirely trust their construction. Still it was a strong first effort and tracks such as "Par Le Dent" and the intense "8913" rounded out a strong first effort.

Nuee Noire picks up where Wendess left off - with the airy, spacious atmosphere one is accustomed to these days with bands like Agalloch and Alcest and such riding the forgotten influences of bands like Empyrium and Arckanum into the dust. Hordes of new recruits to Black Metal worship every particle of dust Drudkh's sound waves vibrate, every fiber that resonates with Wolves in the Throne Room's menacing noise and every second that some new band can suck from their life with redundancy and repetitive wanderings. I've heard few Black Metal bands in recent years that portray the feeling that their music is more than what they say it is. Nuee Noire grows closer to that final ridge and leans over gracefully, peering down into an abyss that many are afraid to cross, a canyon which, once entered, one must within thrive without any hope of reversing course. I can't say that Wendess have taken that plunge just yet but the feeling that they want to is there.

They have drifted out of the pastoral setting that was hinted at on Wendess. Nuee Noire is way grittier than the first EP as evidenced by the opening minute of the twofer opening track, "Intro & Seroquel." Hints of disharmony twisted into an endearing form are layered across more traditional Black Metal stylings.  In this particular track the introductory section and Seroquel section are separated by a fermenting ambiance, drifting between dream and nightmare. Wendess like to wander the dreamscapes of myriad emotional states. The melodies can mean anything to the listener, of course, however it is hard to describe them jovially. Most of this album is blessed with a profound attempt to create bleak introverted depression. The album also has no interest in rushing the torture. Four of the five songs are over ten minutes long, three are over fourteen minutes long. The terminology behind the concept of an LP truly has meaning here. At times, I would wager that most would agree that the songs meander. While this is generally a good thing for background music, I also fell asleep on several occasions while trying to actually listen to the whole thing in it's entirety. Luckily, the ride home from Maryland Deathfest was an excellent opportunity to finally do proper reconnaissance on Nuee Noire.

Wendess have a knack for tonality. Every tone is beautiful especially the clean guitars which are a common element and are used often to transition between motifs. This is an area where Wendess are way more enlightened than others. They are able to change tonality of instruments in sections without affecting the flow of a song or sounding out of place. How often do I hear bands break into sections with effects on the instruments that sound downright foreign to anything else in the vicinity. Black Metal has no need for tonal tourism on the part of post-production experimentation. When the listener finally gets to the second track, "Xanax," a palindrome that is not reflected in the structure of the song, I think it would be prudent to expect an intense, eight-hundred beat-per-minute blast fest to break up the tempo (the band most likely have the talent to do so) but instead they continue on with their intent to create their album. "Xanax" utilizes the above mentioned clean guitars to full potential and truly hearkens back not to contemporaries but to albums such as Where At Night the Wood Grouse Plays. Wendess do add their own life to the style and omit the wonderfully powerful clean vocals.

It is the third track where Wendess make their blackened stand. "8915" is similar to "8913" on their self titled, but instead of being one and a half minutes, we get ten times that much material to weather. It is a storm. The most intense of the tracks available on the release. It also presents the biggest adjustment that I can notice between the two albums other than general songcraft. Vocally, there is a HUGE improvement on this album. I felt the vocals on the previous offering were the weak point. They retained a pre-pubescent lack of confidence. They were caught somewhere between being Black Metal and being metalcore. The vocals here sound more like what comes out of tape player when Eindig's Doodshcrift is inserted for prime enjoyment. Admittedly, they are better but not yet to the point to fawn over. And while "8915," at one point sounds like Dick Dale - which is awesome - it also once again fades away into more unnecessary sections as well with additional clean guitars. At times I think it would be beneficial to make several smaller songs. It takes a certain amount of commitment to listen to a fifteen minute song.

On that note, fourth track "Lithium" goes a full eight minutes without any kind of heavy distortion and by this time, when the distortion does kick in, I don't even remember what came before it. Once again, a lot of great ideas and great melodies but without the concentration of a Buddhist monk, I just don't know how effective it all is from the standpoint of composition. I guess the moral of the story is that by the last track, I'm depleted a bit. The slow, atmospherics of the last track, simply titled "Outro," is definitely enough to force me to need to move around and get my blood moving to avoid passing out.  If Wendess can find a way to maintain listenability of the album, from beginning to end, and maintain the listeners attention, there should be no problem of the band becoming a well known name in the modern day Black Metal scene. Their propensity for long, drawn out compositions which sound almost like entire jam-sessions could work in their favor or against them if they can find a way to control it. I also don't quite understand the reasoning for ending "Outro" with the same variation/section/rhythm as the intro on their self titled release. It seems far fetched that anyone would recognize that after falling asleep halfway through "8915."

The lack of physical availability of this release is disheartening. It deserves some sort of physical release. Apparently Self Mutilation Services has released a physical copy but with no distribution I doubt there will be much product movement.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Okketaehm - Stones Review #1

First review for Okketaehm - Stones has been added to the appropriate page. The original review can be viewed here, at Metal Archives.