Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Morning Metal Report Featuring The Atlas Moth, Faust, and Crack Up

It’s been awhile since I’ve treated you Waveriders to a delightful set of metal for your Monday morning travels, and it’s not because of lack of metal. Oh no! There’s been more metal that I can shake a stick at (Racer . . . get me a stick!) I’ve just been busy with other topics that needed my attention. But rest assured, I haven’t forgotten you metal heads and what it is that get’s you up and at ‘em on a Monday morning. Coffee is all fine and dandy, but what you really need is metal, metal, and maybe some more metal. This edition of the Monday Morning Metal Report features a varied selection of recent releases that stopped me dead in my tracks, metal ranging from technically complex to emotionally raw to downright terrifying. Sit back . . . enjoy . . . and don’t forget to go to work.

The Atlas Moth – A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky

Fresh from Candlelight Records, The Atlas Moth brings us a lesson in the horrifying and the bizarre. A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky has as much to do with ambient trance metal as it does with the brutality of death metal. It’s experimental and progressive, but hefty as the weight of the world on Atlas’ shoulders. Weird textural sounds flutter over heavy ass, distorted guitar tones, and some of the sounds simply drone along with the groove of the songs like trails from a bad trip. But then, amidst all of the doom-y tones and waves of feedback, there are these beautiful melodies that meander across the spectrum, like iridescent butterflies making their way across the desolation of apocalypse. Beauty within tragedy. A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky is an amazing musical journey that will have your checking your bags (and your senses) at the gate . . . coz’ where this album takes you, there’s no need for a change of clothes.

“Grey Wolves” should freak you the fuck out. It did me. But to really grasp the intensity of “Grey Wolves,” one must go to the songs predecessor and title track, “A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky.” This track opens up with a riff that's reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy,” but ugly and menacing, and then it morphs into a chaotic frenzy of howled out agro vocals that send chills up the spine. Littered with shrill notes and atonal walls of abrasiveness, the song shifts in tempo numerous times, dragging us listeners on a white knuckle trip through someone’s nightmare. By the time the song begins to wind down, we nerve shattered listeners are grabbing for the crushed pack of cigarettes wadded up in our shirt pocket, and with shaking and unsteady hand, try lighting the cigarette freshly clenched between our lips. By now, the feedback from the end of the song has completely washed over us and we feel as if we’ve been able to salvage a small piece of our sanity. That is, until the feedback becomes “Grey Wolves” and that screeched, banshee vocal shatters the relative calm. And it’s not just the sudden vocals, but the explosion of distorted guitars and crash of stick to drum head and cymbal. I damn near jumped out of my flesh . . . skeleton running in panic down the street. The whole album does this to you! It lulls you into a state of complacency and then jumps out of the shadows to yell, “BOO!” A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky is the best horror movie that I’ve ever listened to!

Faust – From Glory To Infinity

From Glory to Infinity is an album of contrasts. Granted, the vast majority of the material featured on the album is high speed, blackened, blast beat laden, death metal grinding, but Faust show us that they have diversity to their extreme approach. Maybe it’s their Italian heritage that has these guys offering up more classical sounding pieces than the average sound extremists, but whatever it is, it’s a good thing. So often, I pass over extreme metal offerings not because the music is so abominable, but because there’s no dimensional quality to it. For me, a piece of music needs to travel. It can go in a loop like a race car on a track, or it can meander along a course both serene and treacherous. Faust does a nice job of mixing all of the emotions up, and taking us on a more treacherous course. Throw in some amazing technical wizardry to the bombastic compositions just to show that they have the chops to hang with just about anybody and well, you know that just gets me right in the ticker.

Note on opening track, “Purple Children,” how Faust shifts out of the blast beat flurry and high octane note exchange, to a slower groove with heavily sustained chords. Nothing terribly fancy, but the contrast in tones creates a grandness to the song that would not have been there otherwise. On top of the bands ability to shift tempos in mid song, these guys use some great tones to the instruments to take the music places a lot of black or death metal doesn’t seem to go. Listen to the, again, beautifully executed tempo shift on “Wet Veils” just before the super melodic and technically adept guitar solo pushes against the waves of chaos. Great contrast! It’s an almost jarring transition, but one done very well. And then, of course, there’s “Sentimental Worship” and the great instrumental break with what sounds like a fretless bass laying down tones that would more commonly drift from the seedier jazz clubs. From Glory to Infinity is an epic listen and made captivating by the musical proficiency of the musicians at hand.

Crack Up – From the Ground

What do you get when you combine the detuned, heavily distorted guitar tones and guttural vocals of Sweden’s death metal scene and mix it with a healthy dose of melody and balls to the wall rock attitude? Apparently, you get death n’ roll, and there’s a whole genre of this stuff lurking around the underground. Who knew? From the Ground was originally released in 1997 through Nuclear Blast and now has been re-issued through Metal Mind Productions, and I gotta’ say . . . I like it! Death metal? Good. Rock n’ roll? Good. Death n’ roll? Silly name, but music goooooood! Crack Up does a great job of laying down just the right amount of attitude without being over the top and bringing some burly tones into the music to make it sound opposing. The album is a runaway locomotive of brutality that tears through unsuspecting towns wherever tracks are laid. Ultimately though, it’s a rip roarin’ good time!

“Razzberry” captures the various death n’ roll characteristics as well as any songs out there by seamlessly shifting from oppressive death metal riff to a metal movement that’s damn near bouncing. There’s an underlying tension running through the song, and it all finally bursts wide open near the midpoint. “Boomer” has a serious bounce to it, but again, the song features huge elements of death with the massive pounding of the double bass drums and wall of distorted guitars. “Rats” is the be all, end all track for me. Fairly short and to the point, the song is made up of a huge riff, a powerhouse groove, fuck all aggressive lyrics and convincing attitude. “Rats” is as metal as it gets! From the Ground is a defiant album filled with songs about inner strength and self reliance. - Pope JTE

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