Monday, October 20, 2008

ODD MAN OUT - It All Ends Here

It All Ends Here
Casket Music

Often imparting a post-hardcore sound on tracks such as the jarring opener “Asylum”, Odd Man Out are definitely for those who enjoy the punkier side of music, with their “modern” approach giving the group a commercialized feel while retaining the energy of the more simplistic form of output.

At times, the band appear to get lost in their own musical experimentation, many of these songs have some great parts that are dragged down by confusing arrangements and jazzy interludes. Occasionally, as on “The Great Soul Swindle”, Odd Man Out are just too damn dissonant for their own good, as the band injects harsh strumming in odd locations.

With “Style Over Substance”, the group make a good attempt at becoming a milder cousin to Refused. There’s no denying that this group is collectively engaged in pushing boundaries, but it seems unlikely that any but the most adventurous fans of this type of material are going to “get it.”

Couple that with the fact that there are a plethora of American bands that execute this type of material much more effectively and you have a dud of international proportions. Let’s hope this noisy mess truly does end here.

Written By: Pills McFrooty

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

THOUGHT INDUSTRY - Short Wave On A Cold Day

Short Wave On A Cold Day
Metal Blade Records - 2001

Kalamazoo’s Thought Industry is quite an unlikely pairing with the Metal Blade Records imprint. When the band signed on for their Metal Blade debut, it is doubtful that Brian Slagel realized the direction that the band would eventually take. Having emerged from their previous thrash metal incarnation known as Desecrator initially retained a large share of their metal roots, however these days Thought Industry is a completely different animal altogether, having more in common with The Cure than the genre of heavy metal.

This evolution was first hinted at on “Outer Space Is Just A Martini Away”, but these days, Thought Industry is solely The Brent Oberlin project (original members having fled the camp and this recording finding the introduction of even more new members, making this a completely different version of the ensemble). This fact is great for those who enjoy this eccentric personality’s creativity and hunger for experimentation, but many fans will find themselves missing the out of control, more rigid and abrasive nature that the group expressed back in the days when their records sported Salvador Dali paintings on their covers.

One aspect that longtime fans will be pleased to entertain is the return of Oberlin’s surrealistic poetry, which is portrayed on this record in it’s classic manner, making for a return from the departure of “Black Balloon’s” more minimalist delivery. Oberlin’s penchant for self-absorption and romanticism gives his lyrics a quality that is seldom seen in contemporary composers. Having carved out his own niche as a writer, the visionary nature of Oberlin’s work places the singer on a par with Morrison in terms of adventuresome, drug-inspired wandering through rhetorical substance.

Exploration is the key in terms of the sound of this project, but there’s a lot less for the more aggressive listener to enjoy. In terms of the progression of Oberlin’s career, this album stands up as a substantial achievement, but Thought Industry (Actually, the band has added an annoying “The” to the front of the name. Yeah, whatever.)

Ultimately, “Short Wave On A Cold Day” is a great album that will aesthetically please those into experimental “big rock”, but this record will likely be too “soft” for those that really enjoyed the bands first two albums.


SEETHER - Karma And Effect

Karma And Effect
Wind Up Records

Virtual masters of modern rock, Seether combines the melodies that make a sure fire rock hit with the energy and intensity needed to give the band an edge over many acts which wander in and out of the charts. Shaun Morgan possesses a passionate voice with just enough of a growl to make the band’s overall sound that much more menacing.

Lead off single “Remedy” is a rocking romp that will be stuck in your head for days, while “Truth” is a bit more restrained, but nonetheless, packs a considerable emotional punch. The arrangements here are slick, flowing effortlessly from one song part to the next as the group excels in building tension in its writings. “Because Of Me” gets going with a banshee scream from Morgan, and then lapses into a lumbering giant of rock. This track is but one example of the group’s ability to pull together assuredly strong choruses.

Dynamics are always a key factor in an engaging listen, and “Karma And Effect” has no shortage of them. “The Gift” finds Seether drifting into a dreamy, sullen ballad that would make for a good choice for a third single; it’s tuneful, resonating verse floating over the top of ringing chords and smooth beats. The group also displays a softer side on the moody track “Forgive”, which begins in a very mellow fashion and morphs into a powerful refrain.

Seether produces a winning combination of melody and edginess on “Karma And Effect” that is sure to burn up the radio for the foreseeable future.


OPUS DAI - Actum Procul

Actum Procul
Double Blind Music

Serving as an initial offering of what one may expect from this artfully progressive, quintessentially unique group, this five track EP, “Actum Procul”, is a good first taste of a band that are full-on supporters of highly acute compositional inventiveness.

Opus Dai injects enough stark aggressiveness into their musical bag of tricks to be a candidate to play with many types of metal bands (System Of A Down springs to mind), while their harmonic sensibilities and acute awareness of the dramatic effect of properly constructed dynamics gives the band a broadened, progressive rock appeal that will attract fans from many areas of the spectrum of musical taste.

“Rain” is as textured as the studio version of the track that is included on the Double Blind artist sampler “Unknown Vol. 1”. An eclectic mixture of the sounds of The Jesus Lizard and Rush, this track stays with the listener well, the charismatic vocals of Chris-Paul Basso drawing you deeply into the emotions inherent in the track.

Opus Dai do very well with loose, Pearl Jam/ Pink Floyd jams, as they exemplify on the haunting “Bella Christa.” In balancing such melodic song parts with more aggressive sounds, as the band (and especially Basso) delivers during the bridges and breaks during this cut. Clocking in at 6:48, the band leaves plenty of room for the singer to be creative. His voice bearing an interesting timbre during the looser sections of the song, Basso does much to prove his value and originality here.

The eerie presence of early U2 meets a driving, chaotic jazz-punk rhythm during “The Front Line” and “Step Up” brings the listener a sonic union of the gruffness of Clutch during the track’s midpoint but the mood of Mike McCreedy’s playing remains during the song’s main theme.

An acoustic, folksy piece entitled “Best Regards” hints at the band’s Led Zeppelin influences, and the rich, full melodies it imparts are admirable in terms of talent and easiness on the ear.

Essentially, Opus Dai is a band that’s great for those looking for a sound that is something new and innovative. This five track live EP is sure to create a substantial amount of interest in the band’s upcoming debut and for good reason, the sounds of Opus Dai are cutting-edge in an age of same-sounding acts. As rare as it is that any EP is great, this intimate sneak peek gives you but a vague idea of just how huge this group has the potential to become.


Friday, October 10, 2008

ARK - Nine Days To No One

Nine Days To No One
Engineer Records

Incorporating minimalist themes can be acceptable when such themes enjoy the benefit of variation, yet Ark’s “Nine Days To No One” unfortunately, does not stray too far along from a jangling, screaming centerpoint for long enough to make a substantial impact.

Although one might appreciate the fact that these instruments and vocals sound like they were recorded in a silo, the production becomes grating when fused with the band’s utter lack of direction. Too much white noise and not enough diversity equals a harsh grating listen that at times, is about as enjoyable as listening to a TV station sign off the air.

The songs are loose and airy, which at times, works for the group, but too often, the simplicity of the band’s songwriting speaks volumes about their obvious inexperience. Incoherence in a structured environment can at times be considered as brilliant but there is simply no excuse for a record that fails to be memorable or entertaining.

There are hundreds of bands that have tried this approach and the bottom line is that most others strike the listener as being both musically and artistically more relevant than the six tracks you’ll find here. This Ark is dead in the water


ANGER - The Bliss

The Bliss
Armageddon Music

This diverse Portuguese ensemble has been going at it now for a decade. On their third release (and their first for Armageddon Music), we find a batch of capable musicians playing a commercially acceptable brand of music akin to Incubus or Trapt.

‘Iced’ really strikes the listener as a moving song with its off-time, high scale riff and catchy, thoughtful lyrics “…I want to break the ice, I’m stabbing to the other side…” as vocalist Pedro Pereira displays exceptional vocal control, crooning dark melodies effortlessly.

On tracks like ‘Devil In My Mind’, he injects a more aggressive approach over the verse line without sounding too harsh for the type of music the group is doing. The subtle nuances found in guitarist Lino Vinagre’s performance define songs like ‘Say (What You Wanna)’. This axe wielder shows an impressive knack for accentuating the dynamic subsections of the band’s songs with tasteful licks and forceful rhythms. A formidable duo, bassist Richardo Melo and drummer Alfonso Corte-Real mesh together superbly. On ‘Feel My Anger’ they drive the song with an up-tempo beat that supports the Spider-flavored raps of Pereira and serves to reinforce the distressful nature of the band.

At first listen, this track reminded me of One Minute Silence, but after a couple of listens, the original traits of these artists begin to shine through. Member Luis Silva really adds to the entire equation with poignant samples and keyboards, highlighted by his addition of some really neat sounding MIDI effects throughout the album.

The discordant, bottom heavy introduction of ‘God In Me’ gives way to a ringing, digitally enhanced acoustic passage that fades back and forth between your stereo speakers. Anger pull off the heavy-clean-heavy manner of writing remarkably well, without going too far off of the deep end in either direction. With several potential singles to choose from, there is no good reason that American fans shouldn’t embrace Anger with open arms.
By skillfully crafting songs which are memorable and well produced, the band has made “The Bliss’ an album which richly deserves to be in your collection.


ALEV - We Live In Paradise

We Live In Paradise
Eclipse Records

Hands down, Alev’s We Live In Paradise is the most commercial recording we’ve seen from Eclipse Records to date, but the fine folks at the imprint certainly know great talent when they hear it, so it’s plain to see why they would get behind this talented German five piece and release this record in the US. To those who have dismissed Alev as a second-rate Evanescence clone simply because they sport a female out front, please stop smoking crack. Their sound is nothing like that of Evanescence and to write this highly enjoyable outfit off as trendy clones would be a substantial disservice, indeed.

If pressed to draw comparisons to a band-of-the-moment, Alev is most like Flyleaf, albeit considerably less dirty-sounding in nature. When Alev want to kick it out metal-style, as they do on the title track, it’s with the slightest industrial edge. A multifaceted tapestry of sound tempered with modern rock sensibilities should be considered as the calling card of Alev. The powerful singing style of singer Alev Lenz at times recalls Alanis Morisette, and the lyrical musings of Lenz have much to do with self-empowerment, also resembling Morisette. However, Lenz’s mostly leaves out that annoying warble that the Canadian pop star’s signature, her approach being much smoother and flowing. As a result, the grandiose melodies of tracks like the very upfront “Time Will Show” and the smooth, dreamy “Youth (Sleep Well)” are at once, instantly memorable and highly entertaining.

A bit of Pearl Jam can be heard in the song structures of “Cause And Effect” and “Just Because,” with the latter track incorporating synth in a way that’s quite subtle, but critical to the overall impact of the track. Meanwhile, the scream leading into this cut’s final chorus shows that Lenz has plenty of air-pushing power; no doubt this highly dramatic moment is a highlight of the band’s concert performances. On “If We Ever (Massdestructive Ignorance),” listeners are treated to an intensely dynamic affair as the band shifts gears between a light and shade verse section that thrusts the spotlight directly upon the frontwoman and an edgy, very singable chorus that delivers the goods with style. The acoustically-flavored “Dying Everyday” provides a somber, introspective highlight, further articulating this group’s ability to write songs with plenty of emotional substance.

There’s no denying that this quintet are both excellent songwriters as well as being captivating performers. With one listen to We Live In Paradise, fans of modern rock will be sure to agree.