Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Colossus Of Destiny - Eden (2011)

This review comes rather suddenly, since I really wanted to make another post before October ends. Somehow I always get angry at myself when I see a low post count for a given month. And, I have to admit, once I wrote the "Calf" review I realized how much I missed writing album reviews and discovering new bands in the process, so this also comes as something to satisfy my own inspired mood. 

Today I present to you "Colossus of Destiny", a three-piece progressive post metal outfit hailing from Paris. Born back in 2009, the French have started making music which soon formed into a self-titled, three song EP only one year later. Yet another 365 days later and coming out in February 2011 they come back bearing this album which is longer, more complex and further evolved. 
"Eden" opens up with an almost six minute blast coming in the form of the song called "Uncover the Cosmic Clue". I have to say that this was an excellent opener and it completely grasped my liking almost instantly. What you are faced with is a score of sounds influenced by bands such as "Elodea", "Kylesa" and "Baroness", yet utterly morphed and weaved into something that is purely "Colossus of Destiny". At first glance, the thing that really amazed me was the very massiveness of their sound, building up a gigantic wall of sound with only three humans holding their instruments.  
Once you look past the monstrosity which they unleashed, you realize how complex the sound actually is. Songs are fast paced and featuring so many ups and downs, interesting bridges, sudden swings in melody and unexpected instrumental sections. There is so much going on in a particular song, always with a constant, yet superbly flowing, rush and it all makes you feel like the songs are much longer than they are. By the time the second song, called "Eden", hits the speakers you pretty much don't know what to do, where to look or what keeps hitting you in the face repeatedly. The opening song was a climactic punch to the ears, but "Eden" continues to attack the senses with amazing guitar riffs, insane drumming and some truly powerful bass. When you go through the entire record you realize that there is no stopping with this band, every tone they make is one huge epic moment and the EP is an apocalyptic bomb sowing chaos everywhere.
Another wonderful thing about this band is the pace with which it grows on you. At first you just begin with liking their music, but by the end of the record you are completely in love with them. It is unbelievable how they keep getting more and more interesting as seconds pass by, so when the final tune echoes away and dies the listener is left with a mind blowing feeling of witnessing a mild breeze turn into a violent thunderstorm.
I've been introduced to this release by "Blue Wave Productions", if you remember the same promotion group from France which showed me "Battle of Memorial Britain", a review which you can read here. Additionally, this EP was supported and released by "Hellbound Records", a label that has two more bands under its wing and you can check them out on their facebook page here. "Eden" comes in CD format and in a plastic case featuring some minimalist, but quite peculiar artwork, as you can see on the front cover. The CD itself also has a really interesting swirl print, so overall the design is very appealing. 
In the end, this is one insane record and yet another astounding band in the already powerful French brigade. I've avoided detailed explanations of songs in this review simply because explaining everything would be impossible and talking about just one specific part seems so poor since there are millions of things exploding around. Just listen to them, trust me, you won't regret that decision in the slightest. And you can do so on their bandcamp page, found here. Currently, judging by the band's facebook page found here, the project grew in number and are now a quintet, adding a new vocalist and one more guitar player. They are writing new material for an upcoming full-length album and this is definitely something to be excited about. Keep them on the radar, I sense a storm coming.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Calf - A Constant Loss Departs from the Sentiment of the Abandoned (2011)

As promised, I am now back with writing release reviews, this one being the first one since May. Wow, that is a very long time indeed. Since then I got numerous physical review submissions, so at the moment I am trying to retrace the order I received them in and to post them in the respected manner.  Additionally, I have an inbox full of unanswered mails which I will begin to reply to as of now. My sincere apologies go to all the bands and labels that had to wait for so long, as you can see it wasn't a matter of the blog being dead or me being lazy, but much rather life has been turbulent and I had to do a lot of writing regarding things other than band reviews. Thank you all for the continued interest and patience, hopefully future content will be even more appealing for everyone.

Opening the band season will be a project bearing a rather pretty and simple name, "Calf". This quartet is nested in Athens, Greece, a place where they started making music in 2009. After taking some time with experimenting with sound and visiting various musical approaches, the band managed to release its debut musical outlet in the form of an album called "A Constant Loss Departs from the Sentiment of the Abandoned". Recorded in late 2011, their firstborn arrives bearing a truly vast array of sounds being weaved around a post rock backbone. Composed out of four lengthy tracks, accumulating to a grand forty minutes of music, the album goes through various different audio landscapes and moods, making you crave for another ride as soon as the first one finishes.
The most appealing feature of "Calf" is absolutely the diversity of sounds which they manage to present to the listener. Spending two years in incubation and taking the proper time to write a complex release definitely aided the band and they came out of the cocoon as a success. As you listen to this release, you are greeted with a score of variant tunes which range from being aggressively epic and fast to completely droning, depressive and melancholic. All presented atmospheres flow in an excellent manner, yet along the way they manage to morph into something completely unexpected.
The opening track is a superb example of what the band has to offer. "Dorian Grey Killed the Last Vestiges of his Consciousness", the first and shortest track of the album, begins with something that sounds like a phone call sample, quickly breaking into an epic, heavy post rock melody. As it carves a cold and somewhat desolate feeling in your head, the tune falls off into a trance-like state, slowly building up in intensity towards the end. "Ich Bebe", the second track in row, puts more of an accent on a brooding, slow melody which bears a more, dare I say, happy feeling at times. The band masterfully throws a lot of different elements into their songs and they come together in a perfect fashion. Either shapeshifting moods or changing tempos and types of song construction, "Calf" has numerous things to offer. It would definitely take me an insane amount of space to cover all their aspects through words, so listening to them is the only thing that can give proper homage to what they created.
The band uses audio samples at various points on the record, giving an overall eerie feeling to the entire release, this being a huge merit in my book. I really liked the fact that the record ends with a continuation of the sample which actually opened the album, giving a sort of cycling feeling to the entire project. Also, the overall quality of the sound is superbly clean and professional, which definitely gives you a chance to fully enjoy every piece of the "Calf" machinery.
Going a bit deeper into technical details of the release. The album comes in CD format, packed in a neatly designed stretch-out gatefold cardboard cover, released by "Noteale Records" which you can check out here. It was produced by Aris Christou, a rather known name in the Greek alternative rock scene due to his involvement with numerous projects such as "Bocomolech" and "Closer". Additionally, a short preview of the then yet to come album has been created, coming in the form of a one minute video which you can see here. The album itself can be downloaded here, courtesy of the band and the label.
Overall, this is a might fine release and I'm really happy that I got introduced to this band. A grand amount of potential is displayed on this album and I hope that the band sticks together for more future endeavors. I'd like to thank Chris from the band for his interest in the blog and for sending me their wonderful CD, along with a short letter containing a part of the guitar tabs for one of their songs! Hope you all enjoyed the review and that it inspired you enough to show "Calf" a lot of support, they surely deserve it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gig reviews: Nada Surf, Ezra Furman

I'm back home yet again and I have to say that I'm completely emotionally, and otherwise, exhausted. Departing from a loved one multiple times per year is neither pleasant nor healthy. It's going to be hard writing about this show now, since it was part of the birthday present I received from my girl so it is coming along with some nice personal memories which are, at the moment, making me utterly sad.

This exquisite concert was held last Friday, namely 19 October 2012, in "Tivoli Oudegracht", Utrecht, the Netherlands. The said venue is basically a sibling of "Tivoli De Helling", the place where I saw "Russian Circles" and "Deafheaven", which was covered in a review found here. Located some good fifteen minutes walk away from the city's train station, the venue is placed in a rather large street which you can't miss. Aside of the exterior which is nicely melded with the surrounding buildings, the interior of the venue is almost the same as seen in the previous show place. A spacious, dimly lit room with a bar and a big stage definitely reminded me of the sister-venue, later even surpassing its overall sound quality and proving to be a really great place to host a gig.
First to grant musical life to the big concert room that night was Ezra Furman, a singer/songwriter hailing from Chicago. Walking on stage wearing a dress and sunglasses, Ezra picked up his guitar and provided a nice half an hour performance. I have to say that the set didn't have my entirely devoted attention due to the fact that I was being flabbergasted by my woman next to me, guilty, and that I was utterly anxious and excited about seeing "Nada Surf" afterwards. Needless to say, tunes managed to pour into my ear and what I heard had its interesting moments. The guitar playing was truly awesome, clashing between gentle melodies and passionate violent outbursts. I wasn't really tuned into the singing, since at times it wasn't my cup of tea, but other moments it did grasp my liking. Lyrics seemed to touch a vast array of themes, from being funny and witty to provocative and aggressive, yet always remaining sincere and somehow fragile. Truth be told, I was never that much into singer/songwriters, so I presume that is why my attention wasn't that much focused. Still, I noticed a lot of people loving Ezra's performance live, so you should all definitely check his tunes out and support him, I'm sure you'll love his work.
After a tiny break it was time for "Nada Surf". Although there exists a long history behind that band name, I've initially heard about the project earlier this year thanks to my girlfriend. She had the privilege to grab their gig back in February when they also played in the Netherlands, so when I heard her impressions of the show, as well as reveling in their music almost nonstop at her place, I instantly fell for the band. What I found appealing the most about this alternative rock trio/quartet is the fact that they got thoroughly nested in my brain the very second I took a listen to their music. The love just kept growing on me over time, especially when you realize how well composed their songs are and how many superb, as well as unique, melodies they can carry. Normally, all that love made me harbor huge expectations for the upcoming show and it was no surprise that the band completely lived up to its name and blew my mind away. The red ribbon was cut with one of my favorite songs, "Clear Eye Clouded Mind" and it made my jaw roll around the floor. The track was executed so perfectly and with such amazing energy, showing the crowd that we are in for a thrilling ride. "Do It Again" and "Weightless" followed soon, continuing in a marvelous manner. It was wonderful seeing the band members smiling and just radiating with positiveness along with the excellent sound they made. There was a lot of movement on stage, the members even performing a brief dance at one point. Later during the set "Killian's Red" was also performed and this tune definitely seems like the band's masterpiece when witnessed live. On recordings the song is impacting and powerful in its own right, but in concert it was simply overwhelming. During this piece everyone could realize how well-crafted their music is, with multiple moods entwining in a single track and rushing with a remarkable flow. "Whose Authority", "Jules and Jim", "When I Was Young" and "Teenage Dreams" were just some of the songs which were also played, crafting an amazing lengthy performance. For the entirety of the set I was amazed at the quality and clearness of the sound, the venue definitely grasping my liking. There are several videos of the performance online, so check them out and you can be the judge for yourself when it comes to the breathtaking sound. Sadly, in the end, we had to miss the last song because of our train, which we caught in the last possible second, but leaving to the sound of "Blankest Year" was equally enjoyable and nice.
All in all, this was a spectacular evening on so many levels. I hope you can excuse me for the rather short or incoherent review, I simply have too much personal emotions flooding my mind and it's really hard to write it all down right now. I'd like to thank the bands for playing and providing the crowd with an amazing evening and, of course, I have to thank my wonderful girl for taking me out and making me abnormally happy, as always.
On a small side note, as I mentioned in the previous reviews, this is the last gig I will be attending in a while, so there will be some interviews and album release reviews coming up next. Hope you enjoyed the show review season on the blog, stay tuned!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Festival report: Ieperfest 2012, day three

Once again I was lucky enough to grab a chance and be by the side of my lovely woman, so I kinda took some time off when it comes to writing and life in general. Well actually, that is a lie, I've been doing, or at least trying to do, some writing for several other projects I have in mind. If all goes well and I manage to beat a major writer's block I have, you will no doubt be reading about those other things I've been working on. Everything is just going extremely slow due to a number of things I'm trying to beat in my life, but I'm trying to take it step by step.

"Nemea" opened the final festival day. A local band hailing from the city Ostend woke up the audience with a brooding form of post metal. I didn't see the entire performance, but from what I witnessed, the band is really interesting. The have a rather compelling sound, in the form of flow and structure, although I somehow feel like they need more consistency. It is really hard to describe, but it seemed to me that specific song sections are way too flowing and at times lack a certain dose of heaviness. This is just a personal opinion however and the band is by no means bad. Absolutely check them out, they are still a very young band and I expect a long road ahead of them.
"The Death Of Anna Karina" was one of the bands that made my jaw drop to the floor when I saw it on the schedule for the festival. Do I really need to explain why? Cult Italian screamo, going strong ever since 1999. Although the band went through different stages of metamorphosis it always managed to hold its ground and stand out with its superb and unique sound. Each record they put out is better than the previous one and it seems as thought the band is on a constant path of growth and advancement. It is funny how I, for some reason, never thought I'd be seeing them perform live, yet there they were in hand-reach in front of me. A mix of older and newer songs was performed, so the crowd got to hear songs like "Castration" and "Dissoluzione", which I have to say was pretty awesome. The girl and me managed to acquire the setlist on paper from the lovely guitar player, but sadly I don't have it with me at the moment. If anyone is interested in the entire list of songs, just leave me a comment and I'll post it for you. In any case, the show was thrilling and had so much energy crackling all over the stage, lots of moving around, singing along and even the singer dropping to the floor and convulsing to the beat of the given song. Sadly, the set saw a flaw which definitely crippled my opinion about the overall show, but luckily I know it's not the band's fault. The vocals were abnormally low, which is obviously rather negative when it comes to a screamo band. You could barely hear the vocalist, although it was apparent that there was barely any air in his lungs from screaming his guts out. The moments when he was discernible were those when the rest of the band would grab a much lower tone or be far slower than usual. The person who was responsible for the sound truly failed, which is a sad fact for this band, since the vocals always played a key part of everything, especially on the last record where I find them quite powerful. Despite this, "The Death Of Anna Karina" impressed me and has sealed my love for their work entirely. 
After a reasonable break it was time to get blown into oblivion by "Toxic Holocaust". Oh. Yes. This devastating Portland-based trio has been ripping ears with its crust, thrash, speed metal crossover ever since 1999. They have been unstoppable with releasing the finest outputs of the genre in all these years and they just keep getting stronger. The band was quick to unleash a true audio assault on the crowd, initially coming in the form of "In the Name of Science" which sounded amazing. I was definitely prepared for a brutal concert, but an impact of this caliber I wasn't expecting. The attack continued with "War Is Hell", "Wild Dogs", "Nuke the Cross" and "Endless Armageddon" among the score of  other tracks performed, finally ending with the song "Bitch". This was such a fast and fiendish ride, you literally had no time to think and I barely managed to successfully scrabble some notes into my booklet. The sound was clear and powerful with a little bit of that thrashy crackling, everything ending up being completely as it should. Later during the day, while standing in the food line, I grabbed a chance to talk a bit to two members of the band who ended up being extremely nice and friendly, making the band that much more awesome. Can't say that you need to check them out, since by now you should have already done that a long time ago. If you haven't... don't make me come over there!
Once "Toxic Holocaust" finished their wild set, it was time for a bomb made out of positive energy called "7 Seconds" to explode on the main stage. There is probably no person out there in the hardcore/punk/whatever scene that doesn't know about this band. Legends of hardcore punk, these guys have been focused on shining out the most positive aspects of the genre, and ideals in general, for a remarkable thirty two year period. After countless records and tours, the band is still growing and being stronger than ever. Initially I heard about this band thanks to my cousin somewhere way back in 1999 I think, a time when I was just getting into music, and since then they never stopped spinning in my player. I absolutely adore "7 Seconds" now as much as I did back then and it was such a mind-blowing experience to finally get the privilege to see them live after all these years. That time has definitely been a huge catalyst, as far as emotions and expectations go, and the band completely delivered. The smile on my face and silly dancing lasted for the entirety of their set, the music and amazing amount of positive energy simply driving you forward. I don't think there was a single person in the crowd that was left unmoved or without a grin on their face. "One Big Guessing Game", "If The Kids Are United", "99 Red Balloons", "Here We Go Again Kids" and "Red and Black" are just some of the songs which incited everyone to just relax and enjoy themselves, making the festival into one enormous party. People continually climbed up on stage and had fun with the members of the band, the singer honestly being mind blown and constantly saying thanks to everyone. Of course, there was enough time to talk and bring out those positive ideals of music while bashing those stupid macho principles and asshole right-wing ideologies. (guess who?) The sound, of course, was absolutely flawless and like everything I imagined, which made the entire experience wonderful. This also falls as a runner-up for my top gigs of 2012 and I see that I will have a really hard time making that list in the end. All in all, a legendary band sculpting a legendary performance, no more words need to be written. 
"Cattle Decapitation". I have to be honest, I never heard about this band before, which is really wrong of me, since they seem to have a fair bit of history, ranging from the distant year of 1996.  The scariest thing for me is that most probably I would completely miss to see them on the festival, if it wasn't for a random encounter beforehand. Namely, my girlfriend's friend said that we should definitely catch them since they are "insane live", so thanks to him we gave these guys a go. Well now, let me tell you that his definition of the band was a serious understatement. This band adds a whole new meaning to insanity, not being just plain crazy or nuts, but seriously mentally deranged with a little touch of being demonically possessed. And all of this I mean in the most awesome and brilliant way possible, the project ending up as being one of the greatest discoveries for me on the entire festival. Without reading any further, I just urge you all to check these guys out, lurk up their music online, go to their shows like your life depends on it and simply support them in any way possible. So what exactly happened on the gig that it made me be so flabbergasted? First of all, the music was absolutely stunning, the band instantly lashing out with an aggressive fusion of black/death metal and grind, knitted into impressively complex and mind bending tracks. The melodies range between extremely exploding, technical, rending and beating to the brain, while at times sounding really epic and sophisticated. In the most schizophrenic whirlwind of instrumental sound stood the vocalist of the band... and I have no idea where to begin with explaining his performance. Remember that demonic possession thing I mentioned earlier? Well, this guy is the ground zero of a massive infestation from otherworldly beings. The score of sounds the man produced during the set was astounding, going from screaming, squealing and growling, all the way to having a funny humor-imbued voice during breaks. All of these were executed in so many different pitches and with a vast array of intensity, so you are left standing there and marveling at what is going on around you. Of course, the devils didn't nest just in the vocal chords, but in fact they started raping the entire band. "Cattle Decapitation" is one of those bands that is just a thrill to watch on stage and you can't look away. My eyes have never been so glued and focused, the state lasting for the entirety of the show. Crazy headbanging, making various deformed faces, the speed and style of the playing, the singer continuously pouring gallons of water on himself and dripping everywhere. And of course, the most marvelous of his maneuvers, launching a ball of spit above his head and then either re-swallowing it in midair or catching it with his hand and sniffing it back into his skull. Yes, everything is truly tense and constantly hanging on the peak of climax when it comes to this band. If all of this is not enough for you to check them out, then I don't know what is. On a side note, the band managed to grab even more of my love once I checked them out after the festival when I got back home. Apparently, the lyrics of "Cattle Decapitation" portray the horrible way humans treat the environment and nature, as well as continuously putting humans into slaughter and abuse scenarios , the same as those which are brought down upon non-human animals daily in real life, or even plainly speaking about genocide. I don't know about my readers, but this gets major thumbs up from yours truly.
Here we come to a whole new level of misanthropy, apathy and depression. And this is the part of the review where things get downright serious. What follows is probably one of the top three performances of the festival and most likely rushing to be in the top for the entire year. Today I was riding in the public transport and briefly remembered how "Crowbar" executed their set on "Ieperfest" and I wanted to rip the gripping pole, beat people up and then smash my own face into a pulp... that's how perfectly beyond this world and words they sounded. I guess that I need to seem more coherent in order for the readers to understand my thoughts, so I'll try to verbalize the experiences I brought from that gig. Anyone who is remotely into hardcore, and its darker incarnations like sludge, knows about "Crowbar". And if you don't, you should go back and do your homework properly. This twisted and apocalyptic apparition has crawled out of the swamps of Louisiana way back in 1989, sowing despair and creating dystopian landscapes wherever it goes. The little town of Ieper was about to be desecrated and the band was determined to do it thoroughly. "We are here to kick your asses", were the mild words of the singer, not exposing the nihilistic monstrosity which was about to be let loose upon everyone until it was too late to run away. I stood there in utter awe, rattled by shivers when the silence was shattered on stage. "Conquering", "New Dawn", "Burn Your World" and "High Rate Extinction" were some of the songs which made the gigantic, slime covered citadel known as "Crowbar". "The Lasting Dose" and "Planets Collide", a pair of my personal favorites, were executed on stage making me completely stunned in the overall gray and desolate landscape the band weaved around the audience. The sound was so powerful and perfectly clear, giving the listener an ability to thoroughly revel in every performed tone. Recalling this show makes me feel really speechless, which shows me just how much a band can make an impression on you and leave you stunned. It was a powerful experience where "Crowbar" excelled at what they do and swiftly managed to live up to their name and reputation. This gig planted its roots deep into my heart and it surely won't be forgotten. My only hope is that, one day, I will get the chance to see them again.
For the past year or so, I've managed to be so lucky to be able to grab numerous bands I love. Anyone who is reading this blog on a regular basis could really see how much gigs I went to and the amount of infatuation I had for a large number of bands hosted here. To be extremely honest, the list of bands which I have seen live drew me to the point where I had no idea which projects I'd crave to see next. Well, among the really few bands that are left for which I would give anything to see was "Converge", so "Ieperfest" gave me the desired opportunity. Aside of personally being quite excited about seeing them in concert, it seemed that almost everyone on the festival was stoked to see the legendary mathcore quartet. Wherever your eyes would wander you would see "Converge" T-shirts and tattoos, leading me to believe that a really spectacular show and insane atmosphere will ensue, probably resulting in a number of deaths from crowd surfing and moshing. Overall I was beyond thrilled to witness the following spectacle and the expectations just kept boiling. And then, the long awaited moment came... and dear mother was I disappointed. It is really bitter for me to recall that gig and I don't even know where to begin with remembering. The choice of the performed songs was really not impressive to begin with, since in my opinion it wasn't as violent as it should be. Too many songs were slow and somehow dragging, which made the set dull, at least for me since I expected complete mayhem and destruction. Everyone can easily look up the setlist on the internet, so you can be the judge of my statement above. Also, following the steps of the chosen songs, the band members didn't seem so enthusiastic and energetic about the fact that they are playing. The singer had some inspiring moments, but it all seemed so bleak in comparison to what I imagined. Additionally, we all know that one of the biggest merits of "Converge" is just the most crushing and powerful, yet insanely melodic and driving, sound, but live they simply didn't cut it right. My impressions were that the volume could have been way more higher and impacting, but what did happen was the crowd getting just your average hardcore show. Having so many trashy thoughts about such a legendary band is not really aiding the popularity of this blog, and it's definitely not the first time I talked bad about a ridiculously famous project, but hey. Bad things happen, those also including bad gigs and this is by no means my final judgement of the band. I will hopefully see this band again in December and I will give them a second chance. Somehow I feel that they will sound much better on a gig which they are headlining, in comparison to a festival performance. We'll see, you never know.
Following the event that seemed like I was robbed off of my childhood memories, I decided to drown the sadness in food, completely forgetting that seeing "Bolt Thrower" would do me good. Although I was far away from the stage and barely paying attention, I guess I could say that I went through their entire performance and they sounded awesome. I was still pissed off by the previous show, so I devoured a meal of french fries, but this band managed to subtly make me forget about the disappointment. It is really sad that I didn't focus too much on stage and because of that I won't be writing much here. All I'll say is that for a "heard live" band they pretty much ruled.