Feist/Mastodon – Black Tongue/A Commotion 7"

Feist/Mastodon
‘Feistodon’: Black Tongue/A Commotion

Warner Bros.
I just thought I’d add my two pennies on this given that despite not attending Record Store Day (due to personal responsibilities, not lack of support for the cause), I have managed to listen to this limited release 7″ that caused quite a commotion (pun very much intended) building up to its release, not least because of the unlikely connection between Canadian songstress Feist and Atlanta, Georgia metal titans Mastodon, which developed following their respective appearances at the same recording of the Jools Holland Show last year.
Having pledged to work on a release together, the respective parties managed to squeeze in a split 7″ release into their extremely busy schedules, each artist cover one track from one another’s back catalogue – Feist choosing to cover ‘Black Tongue’ from Mastodon’s ‘The Hunter‘, and Mastodon selecting ‘A Commotion’ from Feist’s ‘Metals‘.
I wasn’t a great fan of Feist before ‘Feistodon’ came along and that won’t change with this release. That ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ song irked the hell out of me, no thanks to Apple, but she is undoubtedly a talented singer/songwriter who is worthy of the acclaim that comes her way. Some positive comments have come her way regarding her cover of ‘Black Tongue’, which I unfortunately must disagree with. Vocally she does a good job, creating something of a dark, haunting effect in the process. I fully expected her version of the song to not come crashing over the hills in the fashion that Mastodon do, but the arrangement of the song in this instance does nothing for me. It seems too disjointed if anything, a valiant attempt to turn the song into an electro-rock lurker, only to judder too much over its course.
By contrast, Mastodon, no stranger to covers and indeed to Record Store Day, do an incredible job of making ‘A Commotion’ their own. I can see why they chose it – out of the Feist material I’ve heard to date this one fits them the best – and the result is something that honestly wouldn’t sound amiss on one of their later records. It quietly builds up with just the chug of the guitar and quietly spoken vocals. When Brann Dailor pounds a thunderous roll, it begins to feel like a proper Mastodon song, bearing Mastodon’s signature power chords. The only grumble is that the chorus suddenly concludes the song – that works for Feist’s version but on this particular cover, it feels like there’s something missing, like it ends too soon.
Nonetheless, this was an interesting experiment and a welcome one at that from these two unlikely collaborators. My personal take is that it’s not the wholly amazing 7″ I perhaps expected. At the end of the day, it’s not something to judge the artist’s by’ more a show of fan appreciation, support for the record industry, and a display of risk taking. In a day and age where risk is rarely rewarded and uniformity is depressingly the norm, it’s a refreshing signal to see artists from two different walks step a little out of their comfort zone.

Peter Clegg
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Bill Bailey – In Metal

Bill Bailey
In Metal

The world would certainly be a poorer and gloomier place without Bill Bailey. The self styled Part Troll has been splitting sides for years with his rambling style of comedy, mixed with warped musical renditions of the Hokey Cokey and the BBC News theme of all things.

But though he’s more well known to the wider public for Never Mind The Buzzcocks and his role as Manny in Black Books’, he’s had plenty of musical dabblings as well, least of all the excellent ‘Insect Nation’. And here he bestows ‘In Metal’, an album of metal-styled songs based on his Sonisphere Festival performance earlier in the year.

There’s not much I can say without giving too much away, cos the humour is part of its charm of course. Don’t expect full on metal – if anything there’s its more rock, with the odd metal styling thrown in. That said though, the Rammstein version of ‘Scarborough Fair’, as well as a welcome ‘metal version’ of ‘Das Hokey Cokey’ show a little bit of steel, although they’re more laden with synth, and the heaviest it gets, on , is ruined by a lyric that quickly becomes tired. The best moments are the tracks ‘Leg of Time’ and ‘Love Song’, which are genuinely hilarious at times and have exactly the direct effect.

I suspect hardcore Bailey fans will find more to enjoy about his sending up of metal than the casual fan or listener, and its not as though he needed to do this to further his wildly successful career. But for the most part its an enjoyable diversion from the often too serious world of heavy metal, and surely that’s what ‘In Metal’ is all about and nothing more?

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘In Metal‘ here

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Review Roundup: †††/Moloch/Obsessor

††† (Crosses)
EP
First up in this review round-up, an out-of-the-blue EP offering from  ††† (or verbally, Crosses), featuring Deftones’ Chino Moreno and Far’s Shaun Lopez teaming up for some electronic rock that’s not too far away from Chino’s previous side-project Team Sleep. The result is five tracks of mostly beat-driven music, with some occasional guitar flourishes, with Chino’s trademark vocals all over everything but the closing instrumental, ‘†’.
Although Chino’s presence doesn’t help this stand out much from his major concern, the EP’s fairly enjoyable as a whole, without bringing anything new to the fore. There’s some an occasional eeriness about one or two of the beats, particularly opener ‘†his Is a †rick’, but there’s some great moments embedded in here as well – I can imagine ‘Op†ion’ sticking around on my MP3 player for a while – although it’s not quite enough to get the pulse racing. It’s more of a grower than an instant hit, and again, it’s not diverse enough to stand out from anything Chino has done with Deftones. But give it time, you might well be pleasantly surprised. It’s available for your e-mail address, and was released somewhat unexpectedly – so free of that hype, go ahead and delve in.

Moloch
Possession
Vendetta
Nottingham’s Moloch’s tortured sludge-doom assault returns here for a full-length comprising just four songs. They play the kind of doom with that same nihilistic stench played and perfected by such modern day peers as Thou and legends of misery like Grief. The first couple find a groove amongst the distortion and screams, particularly ‘Delusions’, which is a sweet jam with a riff rich in Southern tradition. ‘Heinrich’, the album’s longest track, features a b-movie sample the likes of which various sludge bands have used in the past and Moloch aren’t above that. It’s designed to be unsettling and those lady’s screams do just that. Overall, it’s a solid debut full-length, even though at four tracks it’s not much longer than their previous EP releases. UK sludge/doom is safe hands with Moloch and others on the scene continue to unleash the filth on this scale.

Obsessor
Obsession EP
Tankcrimes
Finally in this roundup, some crusty-thrash from Obsessor, which features former Municipal Waste member Brandon Farrell. This EP comprises just two tracks and is over too fast, but it’s excellent stuff that bodes well for this band’s future. It’s very much in the vein of bands like Discharge, earlier Corrosion of Conformity, etc., and the production sounds a little low-rent but captures the rawness of this band brilliantly and even gives off a Celtic Frost vibe. Either way, it doesn’t detract from this taster of what Obsessor have to offer. If they can keep cracking out tracks like ‘Underworld’ and ‘Obsession’ on future, longer releases, I can’t see any reason why they can’t carve out a name for themselves. What’s more, Tankcrimes are offering this EP as a free download – so you’ve no excuse not to check them out.
Peter Clegg
 

Review: Jesu – Ascension

Jesu
Ascension
Caldo Verde
As clichéd as this sounds, I’m more than happy to admit that Jesu’s music has helped me through a bad patch or two. I’m probably not the only one who perhaps finds their music therapeutic – in some ways, it can be doomy, chilling, melancholic; in others, relaxing, euphoric, and truly immersive. Whichever way you view Jesu, Justin Broadwick has certainly crafted some of the most emotionally stunning music of recent years through his post-Godflesh project.
Recently, Jesu had moved away slightly from heavy, droning guitars in favour of ambient, synth-layered soundscapes, such as on ‘Why Are We Not Perfect’ and ‘Christmas’. ‘Ascension’ sees a return for those guitars and rumbling basslines for more tales of struggle and woe; unfortunately, the album as a whole is a little disappointing.
It’s got some great tracks; the opening couple ‘Fools’ and ‘Birth Day’ are certainly well worth anyone’s time. But it suffers at that point from a weak middle section. ‘Sedatives’ almost seems a little upbeat thanks to its slightly faster drum beat and the next few songs that follow it either don’t feel like they’re given enough time to develop, or seemingly meander on without delivering that crushing blow to the sense.
That said, ‘Ascension’ does hit the desolate spot perfectly at times, particularly as the album wears on. ‘Small Wonder’ in particular awash with powerful riffage and hazy synth, capturing head first that classic Jesu sound, and ‘December’ and ’King of Kings’ are bleak and beautiful, extracting every last drop of fragility for Broadrick’s vocals.  But for me, it doesn’t hit the same raw nerve that ‘Conqueror’ did at times. Not that I was at all comparing it to that album – ‘Ascension’ stands up competently within its own flame. Just not to the lofty heights that preceded it.
Peter Clegg

Review: Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus

Morbid Angel

Illud Divinum Insanus
Season of Mist

There’s been so much negative coverage surrounding Morbid Angel’s 9th album that it was really difficult, even with my mindset, to approach this album with an open mind. But open-minded I remained – I was sure that I could see some sort of hidden genius lying within ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’ that could defy the naysayers, the critics, the haters. Sadly, I was wrong.

It starts off tentatively. If ‘Omni Potens’ was designed as an intro track, fair enough. It can’t be anything but a cheap attempt at building some atmosphere. And then comes the head-scratching ‘Too Extreme!’, which will leave many people dismayed – trigger drums, electronica, all done to irritating effect. In my opinion, it’s a fair crack at melding Prodigy-style techno into their trademark sound, albeit somewhat awkwardly. At over seven minutes in length, it’s far too long and outstays its welcome. It really ought to have been at least a couple of minutes shorter.

It does set up nicely for ‘Existo Vulgoré’, which is certainly one of ‘Illud’s…’ better tracks, a pure death metal ripper in keeping with MA-tradition. David Vincent yells ‘VULGORE!!!’ with a real intensity in the chorus. If you looked into the hype as closely as I did, this offers real hope that the album isn’t as bad as first feared. This is followed up swiftly by ‘Blades For Baal’, which is equally fearsome. This is pretty much as good as it gets, however. For inexplicably, following that one-two punch, they head into stadium metal territory with ‘I Am Morbid’, which wouldn’t be entirely bad if it weren’t for some horrible cliché lyrics. If I want to hear an arena-orientated death metal anthem, then surely tracks like Arsis’ ‘Forced To Rock’ are truly the way to go, rather than this shoddy excuse.

’10 More Dead’ is a slow, heavy groover that puts the album back on stable footing for a short time, although it’s not in the same vein as some of their other slow classics. But the descent into the inexplicable is already in motion, and is punctuated by ‘Destructos vs The Earth/Attack’, a ridiculous pastiche of Rammstein at best and an abominable attempt at industrial metal at its very, very worst. The 30 second blast entitled (‘Attack’) at the end feels tacked on and is somewhat an insult to the ears.

‘Nevermore’ sees a return to straight-up death metal and is one of the album’s better tracks for sure. All instruments are focused on bludgeoning attack. But this is followed up by ‘Beauty Meets Beast’, which can only be described as bland and uninspiring in comparison, lacking the impact of the other deathy songs on the record. Which all in all brings us back to the album’s conclusion, the ill-advised ‘Radikult’ and ‘Profundis – Mea Culpa’. The former is another highly-flawed attempt to bring death metal to the dancefloor that leaves Morbid Angel this time coming off resembling Marilyn Manson. It sounds as though they’re trying to create another fan-anthem but it really isn’t working. There’s no intensity at all and doesn’t sound anything at all like ‘Angel. The latter, closing track to the album sees more cheap industrial tinges that leaves it as nothing more than another throwaway track that ought to have been left on the cutting room floor.

Morbid Angel should actually be applauded for taking the experimental approach. They didn’t go for the wonga here, unlike Celtic Frost did with ‘Cold Lake’, or Cryptopsy with ‘The Unspoken King’ – industrial/techno metal certainly isn’t the musical cash cow it was to a certain extent when nu-metal was popular. The problem is, this experiment failed – very badly. And I wouldn’t be so offended if they sounded like they could have been bothered. Don’t get me wrong – ‘Existo Vulgoré’, ‘Blades For Baal’ and ‘Nevermore’ are stellar tracks but they stand out simply because much of this album, particularly the second half of this album, just sounds really lazy, which is the biggest slap in the face of all. New drummer Tim Yeung and guitarist DestrucThor do an ample job on the heavier tracks but are shackled on the industrial moments, which only serves to emphasise how half-arsed David Vincent and Trey Azagthoth’s performances are.

Any true fan of Morbid Angel who are no doubt used to experimentation from the band would have expected no less on this record. The problem is that tracks like ‘Destructos…’ aren’t worth a millisecond compared to, say, ‘God of Emptiness’. They don’t even sound that well-written. Many metal bands have incorporated electronic influences into their sound and aesthetic and have done it supremely well. Morbid Angel sound as though they just tried to lump together any old bleep and effect in the hope they’d be passed off as revolutionaries. The fact is, eight years on from ‘Heretic‘, modern day death metal has evolved and is leaving Morbid Angel behind. They are struggling to keep up the pace and indeed, struggling to live up to their legacy. Moreso if they’re going to be churning out stuff like this.

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For further discussion regarding this album: Formulas Fatal To The Cred?

Peter Clegg


Formulas Fatal To The Cred?

[PHOTO BY ALEX SOLCA]

Horrible puns aside, it seems that Morbid Angel’s long-awaited comeback isn’t quite as well-received as many would have hoped. They have a new album coming out shortly, ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’, continuing the alphabetical trend of previous albums. It’s the first one from the band since 2003’s ‘Heretic’, which didn’t quite live up to expectations when it was released.

When news of a new album broke, people were excited. The death metal legends were finally returning, festival appearances are in the offing, and even drummer Pete Sandoval’s exit due to back injury failed to mute expectations. Tim Yeung is a more than capable replacement, and indeed, the hype machine was in full effect. Indeed, that’s where the story begins to go awry.

First of all, the album art was released, which in some quarters seemed to be described as a bad Photoshop job. It’s certainly not the bad-ass artwork many would expect from Morbid Angel, but let’s not judge a book by it’s cover. The first track to emerge from the album was ‘Existo Vulgoré’, which is a solid if slightly unspectacular track. David Vincent’s vocals certainly don’t sound like they used to, and it certainly doesn’t capture the classic Morbid Angel sound. But in my opinion, it’s far from dreadful, and let’s remember it’s just one song from the album.

But then this video (seen after the jump) emerged online, containing samples of all the tracks from the album, and the internet metal community seems to have exploded with outrage, disbelief, and a lot more besides. I, for the record, can’t claim to have heard these samples yet – I’ll certainly get round to it – but the reports are that these new songs contain a more ambient/industrial feel in certain places. People are up in arms over it, some saying Vincent’s time in the Genitorturers and Trey Azagthoth’s desire to incorporate techno/drum ‘n’ bass vibes into Morbid Angel’s sound are to blame. Some have even gone as far as to say this is the worst metal album since Cryptopsy’s ‘The Unspoken King’ – which needless to say needs no introduction in metal’s proverbial Hall of Horrors. And that promo photo (pictured above) isn’t doing them any favours either.

I was a bit of a latecomer to Morbid Angel, I’ll be perfectly honest. It took me a while to stop being lazy about it and actually get the bulk of their material checked out. Based on the one song alone…this is no ‘Altars of Madness’, or ‘Covenant’. It’s alright, but it’s not making me want to bring out the metal claw and hold it aloft. It doesn’t send me dizzy like ‘Bleed For The Devil’ does.

However…it’s just one song. The samples certainly don’t tell the whole story. Maybe the reaction from the fans is a result of the massive hype they placed on this record. Maybe it serves to highlight a closed-minded mentality amongst the metal community, as Trey once argued. But there’s a fine line between experimentation and downright buggery. Let’s see which side the coin falls on. Work of genius, or their very own ‘Cold Lake’? I’m prepared to keep an open-mind on this one.

The sample video follows the jump.

You can download ‘Existo Vulgoré’ via Morbid Angel’s label, Season of Mist.

‘Illud Divinum Insanus’ is released on Monday June 6th via Season of Mist

Peter Clegg