lunes, 27 de mayo de 2013

BORIS, LITURGY, MONOGATARI @ Festival Aural (live show review)

bands: Boris, Litury, Monogatari venue: El Lunario, Mexico City date: May 16, 2013 


There is a major difference between attending an experimental music concert and being in a more ordinarily structured music event, and it is that the first is about a more physical experience while the latter may become into a sing-along night. Japanese freaks Boris are one of those bands that are able to develop both experiences in the same gig. This godsend happens due to their wide scope on music, switching their style in each album between drone, harsh noise, stoner, noise rock, doom, shoegaze and even dirty hardcore and punk. Thus, while one may put one’s eardrum on heavy duty by an annihilator noise attack one may be waiting for the band to play one’s favorite melody, though I am still unable to sing their lyrics no matter how many times I listen to Red House Painters' “Japanese to English”.

Therefore, the promise of catching Boris in Mexico City was an electrifying highlight inside the not that short list of gigs near my town in this year. Boris landed Mexico in the framework of Festival Aural. Aural is the experimental twisted branch of the Festival de la Ciudad de Mexico. As far as I know, Aural is an evolution of the Radar Festival formerly hosted by the same people who now set up Aural. These hard working people bless us with one of the most important festival of experimental music in Mexico, bringing us the opportunity of witnessing the performance of important names such as Sunn O))), Nurse with Wound, Mike Patton, Oren Ambarchi, Jazkamer, Keiji Haino, Z’ev, KTL, Earth, Sun Ra Arkestra and Pan Sonic’s Mika Vaino among many others. This time Boris is supported by northamerican post-black metalheads Liturgy and a Mexican project called Monogatari. The tripartite sonic experience took place in the Lunario stage, which is a very interesting venue thought to lodge high quality music live shows of all nature.

The rainy night of May 16 Monogatari assaulted the Lunario’s stage with a strong attack of harsh noise which eventually started to reveal the band’s musical aim. I had never heard about these guys before, in fact digging in the web for information yields nothing but a Japanese literature style. The guys cover their faces with strange cloths. Monogatari’s line-up features guitarist, drummer, bassist and a singer who also takes over the electronics. Their noise is one stamped by an influence of metal and perhaps punk. I didn’t feel too comfortable with the vocals which, in the more punk-ish moments, brought some screamo singers to my mind. However, in the few minutes the band starred the night, they were able to develop powerful music and show beams of originality. Some annoying people started to ask for Boris apparition while Monogatari was still playing. Among the audience you could realize that about 50% were metalheads and one can infer it, those annoying people were metalheads, this is why metal fans are often seen as selfish and disrespectful people who can’t put up with something that doesn’t appear at or with new national bands.

It was time for Liturgy to bring some noise. The two-piece outfit uses a drum machine in a laptop and in the live show you’ll see nothing but two guitars and some pedals. I had come across with this band in the web before, but honestly they didn’t catch my attention. Nevertheless, once I watched them live I changed my mind. The band formerly had a bassist and drummer who were eventually laid off. These guys play in a very interesting way, using their pedals they are able to build up a colossal sound of distorted black metal riffs. The guitarist wearing glasses was a few centimeters to me and I was able to stare the complexity of his riffs. I could do it only once the crowded press was asked to leave, they were right in front the stage during about two songs in each presentation. I was surprised about the number of guys from the press. I was in the forward and the only thing I could see was a bald tall photographer’s nape. The singer manages a sort of melancholic shouts in the vein of depressive bands like Austere. Striking is the way he used the looping pedal to set up a choir varying his tone and recording. The drum machine, though sometimes mimicking the former human drummer, was often used to bring a more noise-like element reaching inhuman speeds and approaching a drone that sometimes yielded in a cyber-grind-esque sound. I really enjoyed the Liturgy’s performance, I do believe I was not the only one, actually there were some people asking the band to play “Returner”, the video that gave them popularity out there in the web.


And finally, it was time for some heavy rocks with masters Boris. Wata’s beautiful Orange amps were turned on and so were Takeshi’s Marshall ones; two huge pedal sets were carried to stage and were welcomed like if they were other members of the band. After a short waiting the band started out with a powerful droning riffage and Atsuo bringing noise from the gong, it couldn’t be another but “Huge”, one of my two favorite Boris songs (alongside with “Blackout”). Wata was a few centimeters to me, I fell in love with her, actually we all did when she sang “Rainbow” with her sweet charming voice. The band offered a new (unreleased?) song “Vanilla” and I don’t know if I’m wrong here but I think I heard some electronics recorded in the background which sounded like been painted by mastermind Merzbow. The whole concert was exactly what I expected (neglecting the lack of “Blackout”): they moved from droning heavy slowness, uptempo punk-ish songs like “Statement” and “Pink”, with that amazing Wata’s noisy solos; harsh noise long stages like the ending of “Flood”, when Atsuo took a pedal and unleashed a twisted brutal noise; in total contrast, we also enjoyed the relaxing soft waves of post-rock and shoegaze in “Cosmos” and “Angel” (which appears to be a different version from the one in “She’s So Heavy”). The band likes to have a modest interaction with the attendance: Takeshi spoke to us in clear Spanish “ustedes son chingones”, Wata had to thank in Spanish after the crowd screamed her name several times, and what to tell about Atsuo who jumped on the crowd during a harsh noise passage.

Boris played ultraheavy and loud, reaching the climax in the grand finale with “Flood”, when the band just lost control while Wata loops in the same characteristic riff and the noise rises up and up. Only then did I feel the wall of sound punching me in the stomach. I don’t really know if Boris exceeded the threshold of pain that night, but I am almost sure that they were not higher than the 125 db reached by Sunn O))) in the Radar Festival in 2009. However, Boris harnessed to death those mythical Orange amps as well as the Takeshi’s Marshalls, bringing us an unforgettable night of loudness and amplifier worship.

Festival Aural: Official Site
Boris Heavy Rocks!!!: Official Site
Liturgy: Facebook
Monogatari: Myspace

lunes, 20 de mayo de 2013

ORCHID "Mouths of Madness" (2013)

band: Orchid album: Mouths of Madness year: 2013 
genres: proto doom metal origin: USA


Have you ever heard a song and suddenly said “I’ve heard this before”? This happened to me in the very first listen I gave to new Orchid’s effort “Mouths of Madness”. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I am a 70’s wise elder who lived the rock’n’roll and proto metal era and who now feels like going back home by listening to such outstanding retro music. I came across with this deja-vu because I’ve got several Black Sabbath albums, not the whole collection, yet the must-have ones for a mean doomster, and it turned out that Orchid mean it when they point out to be a Black Sabbath worshiper band.

Orchid is a band that may not require an introduction. They’ve earned a lot of attention since their 2011 debut “Capricorn”. The popularity of the band increased when they signed a deal with important Nuclear Blast Records, achieving a new level in amount of ears that can catch their music. This contract put Orchid on a par with Sweden’s mighty Witchcraft inside this movement of retro doom metal, in which now also joins just rising Kadavar. Thus, this first full-length album released under the sign of Nuclear Blast should represent the most important happening in the not so long Orchid’s career.

“Mouths of Madness” offers a similar formula to their debut “Capricorn”. The retro feeling is the main element and manages everything inside the album: low toned guitars, nice blues grooving riffs, primitive bass sound, and that characteristic drums from the 70’s. Vocals are side psych and retro, somehow preserving some originality by not sounding as an Ozzy clone. Seems like Orchid knows where to place each element, the correct variation of tempos is a feature that only people with a killer composition gift can develop and it blesses the album keeping the listener from hitting the “forward” button. The album as a whole may take in mind the legendary Black Sabbath’s “Vol. 4”. You know, some melodic guitars used to appear in that album, featuring acoustic guitars, Iommi showed a wider song-writing style and this is exactly what happens with this new Orchid album.

Haven’t I listened to Black Sabbath before, I would put Orchid in an altar and worship them from now on. Nevertheless, since the beginning of the album several Sabbathic moments appear and disappear while Orchid moves you through melodies and riffs. My deja-vu begins with second track “Marching Dogs of War” and those hypnotic odd bass lines that quickly remind me of “Children of the Grave” strange percussions. However, there is a thin line between being influenced by a song and coerce the listener to go over his storage of Iommi riffs locked up inside his mind. This begins to occur during the album running. Perhaps the worst example, and the one that forced me to write this review, is the third track “Silent One”, at least for me, it appears like the band has ripped off important elements from “Internal Void”: that classic riff is carried out almost exactly the same in the beginning of the song, but things go worse when the riff turns heavier just like when Ozzy starts to sing in the same song, the similarities are undeniable. The song continues with nice clearly original elements, but when the song reaches its climax with the guitar solo Orchid falls once again into the void. The main riff of “Into the Void” seems to appear in the last track “See You on the Other Side” too.

Going ahead with the tracks, the entrance to “Nomad” just calls for people to remember the unforgettable beginning of “Wheels of Confusion”, but don’t be scared, this time affinities are less acute. Nonetheless, in “Leaving It All Behind”, Orchid has, in my opinion, taken shamelessly the introduction to “After Forever”. That representative riff that strung along with Ozzy’s vocals is also summoned in the track “Loving Hand of God”. Finally, “Wizard Of War”, appears to be Orchid’s version of “Paranoid”, however, that classic riffage has been used so many times in the past by an scarily huge number of stoner rock bands that it seems to be of public domain.

What else can I say? That I actually don’t remember by heart the whole discography of Black Sabbath? Imagine what would happen otherwise. There is no doubt that Orchid has set up a killer album, one would love to play this one in the car with the highest volume admissible by the transit laws. The album is enjoyable and it has its original and creative moments which are, of course, outstanding as well. Orchid are gifted people with a lot of potential which is, according to a considerable auditory, already unleashed. Plus, the lyrics work is quite cool and worth digging in. But, in my very own opinion, Orchid could sound better if the cut off they umbilical cord from Iommi and his fellows.   

Official Site

miércoles, 15 de mayo de 2013

ABSTRACT SPIRIT "Theomorphic Defectiveness" (2013)

band: Abstract Spirit album: Theomorphic Defectiveness year: 2013 
genres: funeral doom metal origin: Russia


Funeral-attending music has been out there since Mozart’s era… This is the common fashion I’d use for an historical analysis of Abstract Spirit's music. Worthless effort since funeral doom metal seems to have earned an important number of not only listeners but also dudes that perform that kind of gloomy music. In that sense, the genre is not an unknown odd child of the death/doom metal sub-genre. Even though the increasing number of generic listen-and-throw bands in the genre, in the cold oriental Russian lands is forged a solid, well-worked and polished funeral doom metal sound. Perhaps, the most important name in this interesting scene is Abstract Spirit, a three-piece band from Moscow that has been developing bloody high quality sepulchral music since 2006, in what they call as funeral art. This mouth of April the band introduced their forth conception entitled “Theomorphic Defectiveness”.

Although there is already a band named Funeral Orchestra, this title could be readily given to Abstract Spirit as well. After their second album “Tragedy and Weeds” released in the tragic year of 2009, the band started using real orchestra instrumentation to give a more tangible and even gloomier atmosphere to their music. It has been four eccentric years since then and Abstract Spirit had released an album further: “Horror Vacui”. But until a few days ago, I was honestly tired of the outstanding formula that the band had been repeating over their last two albums. When I realized that a brand new album was ahead I was ready for a third version of “Tragedy and Weeds”, I thought that the band was stranded in the same stage inside a loop, condemned to repeat the same formula album by album as many doom metal bands can be found in this moment. Thus, it was important for Abstract Spirit to refresh their music and make some necessary changes.

The title of this forth conception is “Theomorphic Defectiveness”. It has to be noted that, according to an interview that mighty Doommantia made to the band’s frontman A.K. iEzor, the band was working in a new album which was supposed to be entitled “Anhedonia 4.0” by the last year.  However, it turned out that iEzor and the rest of the band didn’t feel comfortable with that work and decided to rearrange, if not redo, everything including the title which mutated into “Theomorphic Defectiveness”. It would be interesting to know how that experiment sounded like, I’m pretty sure I’ll die without knowing the answer to that question…

“Theomorphic Defectiveness” has the same skeleton and mood that their previous works: it is heavy and slow music with powerful riffs, brutal death metal growls, repetitive structure and a nice focus on developing a gloomy and bloody funerary atmosphere by managing a lot of symphonic elements. Sounds good isn’t it? This formula makes you lose any hope you may hold and takes you into the middle of the saddest and darkest funeral. Nevertheless, Abstract Spirit moved from their comfort zone daring to subtly add some changes that made the difference. I can actually enlist these acute elements as follows:

1. Listen to second track “За Сонмом Цветных Сновидений”, the only one sung in Russian. Once again I’ll die without knowing what the hell that means (jokes aside, according to god-like Google Translate, it means “For the hosts of Colored Dreams”), in this track the already gloomy atmosphere goes even colder, insane, twisted and a dead man-driven when the slow heavy riffs become fast and repetitive yet heavy while drums keep on their slow and monotonous way. I don’t really know if this little trick has been used by this or any other doom metal band, but this time it is much more acute and it is repeated in “Leaden Dysthymia”. By adding this to the funerary atmosphere one can feel chills finding one’s self before a grim dead and cold feeling, like were you the one inside the coffin this time.

2. The choirs. Even though they had been used before by the band, this time choirs seem to have claimed special attention. The live performance of choirs is actually far of sounding made by living people. They sound monotonous and lifeless, like if performed by tortured souls. This passages are larger and more than before.

3. Listening to the album as a whole, one realizes that, although the band had worked with live wind and strings performances in the two previous albums, this time these elements create an even more insane atmosphere. It seems like the composition skill has been improved. The horror-movie-like orchestra brings you to a desperate state while cold spirits fill the room. This sensation reminds me the album “Monoliths and Dimensions” developed by Sunn O))), who made some similar efforts. Furthermore, take a listen to the homonymous track in which, for few seconds, one can listen to a passage of what sound like old Russian music. 

4. At last, but not the least, “Theomorphic Defectiveness”, sounds less horizontal and more dynamic than its predecessors. The composition work is amazing, not only in the symphonic elements (as mentioned above) but also in the songs’ structure and in the elements added. For example, “Prism of Muteness” is one of the less slow songs the band has ever made. You can listen to some clean guitars hidden through the album, self iEzor moves through a wider spectrum by varying his vocals in a more dynamic way than before. The composition work just appears to have been loosened.

These are the four reasons why I found this album more interesting than what I expected (at least for myself). “Theomorphic Defectiveness” is clearly an Abstract Spirit album, with its characteristic high quality and elaborated composition and elements blend. There are some bands that claim that since funeral doom metal is such an insane and dark music it has to be minimalistic and raw, some people say that high quality funeral doom is a contradiction to the philosophy of the genre. Personally, I do believe that someone has to do this kind of music mattering about the composition and the high quality of the music. It is clear that this formula developed by Abstract Spirit is effective and achieves its aim of enclosing you into a coffin. Abstract Spirit has just strengthen this in their last album. By now, one of the best doom metal albums of the year, i.m.o.     

Solitude Productions