Lines In Wax

TWELVE YEARS OF UNWANTED OPINION

Month: February 2021

Carcass – Heartwork (1993)

Carcass – Heartwork (1993)

In anticipation of the release of the newer Carcass stuff I revisited some of my least favourite albums by the band. Yes, I am one of the grubby losers that thinks Symphonies… and Reek… are the pinnacle of Carcass’ sonic output, and yes I’m damn proud of that, even if the band aren’t. Onwards onto Heartwork proper then, the record that sang the melodic death of my favourite bands (and sounds) of all time. Leaving my jaded 19 year old self 12 years into the past, I considered Heartwork on the merits of being an early melodeath album and on this merit alone, it excels, as you would expect. The production style is clean but somewhat awkward, holding the weight and brutality of past records but also possessing a sound that relies heavily on leads, hooks, choruses and all sorts of other mad shit you’d never expect to hear dusting 80/90% of Carcass’ songs. I’d do a track by track analysis, but honestly, this just isn’t for me. I’m glad I gave it a full play and my attention in its complete form at least once in my life, though.

Asphyx – Embrace The Death (1996)

Asphyx – Embrace The Death (1996)

Not the first album that I have heard by this legendary Dutch band, but when listening to it, and doing my research, I realised how confused and in the dark I was about the band’s complicated discography. Embrace The Death sits a few albums in, but was recorded towards the start? Or something like that? Despite all of this, Asphyx has this unmistakable mournful approach to the slower side of death metal; a melodic depth without being a melodeath band or anything silly like that. If like your death slow (lol) then come one and come all.

Muslimgauze- Mullah Said (1998)

Muslimgauze- Mullah Said (1998)

Mullah Said is my first taste of the prolific and highly revered sound art of Muslimgauze. I find something about this deeply unsettling; dark, meandering soundscapes are the order of the day, steeped and drenched and plunged over and over into dense Eastern weavery and instrumentation. I shall be returning to this project, that is for sure.

Chrome Hoof – Beyond Zade (2006)

Chrome Hoof – Beyond Zade (2006)

Chrome Hoof have been on the to-do list for longer than I would ever care to admit. How blown away was I when I finally checked them out? Well, read on! LOL. Beyond Zade is one of those awkward releases that kinda sits somewhere between an EP and an album, but either way, that doesn’t really matter, what matters is the musical content, of which I can safely report is absolutely bonkers in all of the best possible ways. Coming on like a mix of Swans, early Goat and Frank Zappa, this gorgeous flow of experimental and challenging music was an absolute pleasure to imbibe from beginning to end. I will absolutely be searching for more from this excellent group.

Voïvod ‎– War And Pain (1984)

Voïvod ‎– War And Pain (1984)

Without looking back it is sometimes easy to forget just how brutish and blunt a weapon early Voïvod was. Before the trademark dissonance and progressive science took over the band’s mesmerising songwriting, the band purveyed an interesting blend of unforgiving thrash metal. Sure, compared to some other efforts, the production is somewhat lacking, but I find that the unpolished, rugged edges to War And Pain add to the aural assault on the senses, much in the way that the grime of the early black metal movement added to the compositions those artists were working on. Good stuff.

Priest – Cyberhead (2020)

Priest – Cyberhead (2020)

I fell in love with Priest’s debut single, “The Pit”, and the album which followed it. Unfortunately, the kinship with their cold and awkward techno pop ends there. 2020’s sophomore effort lacks in just about every attribute that made the original so interesting, which is a true shame. I hear there may have been line up changes in the band? Either way, this is pretty disappointing, truth be told.

Psudoku – Space Grind (2011)

Psudoku – Space Grind (2011)

Blind listen of the day award goes to the madfolk in Psudoku, which despite the slightly silly name live up to the head-scratching promise of their moniker with this epic cataclysm of mathematic chaos. Owing more to certain experimental metallic genres than anything too far into the grindcore camp, Space Grind is however an excellent and perplexing listen. If you like your metal absolutely bonkers, then come one come all.

Thought Gang – Thought Gang (2018)

Thought Gang – Thought Gang (2018)

The Thought Gang moniker has cropped up here or there on Twin Peaks soundtrack records (and the show itself, lets not forget). From the bizarre, softly spoken offerings on the FWWM OST, to the frenetic jazz given to The Return, it was awesome to finally listen to an album’s worth of material from this Lynch / Badalamenti collaberation project. As perhaps predicted, this is a mixed bag of tunes, more of a collection than a solid album, what with some of these tracks nearing 30 years old now. My favourite piece has to be the epic and seemingly endless “Frank 2000” (part of which was looped for the Twin Peaks S3 Blu Ray menu), with its e t h e r e a l w h o o s i n g in spades and spades, something which Lynch appreciators such as myself have heavily come to fall in love with. Perhaps predictably, a strange one.

Wire – Pink Flag (1977)

Wire – Pink Flag (1977)

Pink Flag is one of those albums that holds its own kind of mysterious cult status. On the surface of it, Wire is not a particularly groundbreaking group, but on repeat listens one can appreciate some of the more subtle undertones to the music. At first it appears to be an interesting approach to the punk rock template but then when you realise the song structures are based entirely in repetition, almost to the point when the music / riffs become hypnotic, I begin to finally understand what makes Pink Flag stand out a bit more from its peers of the time.

Possessed – Seven Churches (1985)

Possessed – Seven Churches (1985)

Another record that is vying for the place of first ever death metal record. Whether it wins or not, Seven Churches is a classic record, one deserving the attention of any metalhead, and not just for its historical status. On Seven Churches, Possessed end up mixing styles of proto-death metal with thrash and something that’s a bit more reminiscent of what Repulsion would do on Horrified. Take all this, and give it an almost blackened feel, and its easy to see how important this album to the development of extreme metal in many of its forms.

Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)

Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)

Make my shit The Chronic! I love this album. I hadn’t listened to it in so many years, so went back to it for the purposes of this entry. In hindsight, its weird how so close together in time The Chronic and its follow-up, 2001 (released in 1999 lol) are. When I was younger, these two eras of rap felt like worlds apart, with The Chronic in particular sounding absolutely ancient in comparison. I wouldn’t be the first critic to say that Dre’s production is far stronger than his rap flows. However, on The Chronic, any bars he offers are actually pretty decent, delivered in his signature cocky snarl, but without that treacle-like consistency that would come on the later records. Of course, there is a large cast of collaborators, an entire audio pallete of tracks and skits, and all in all, The Chronic is a classic gansgta rap / G-funk record that whilst over-rated, delivers on pretty much every level you would expect from something like this.

Devin Townsend – Terria (2001)

Devin Townsend – Terria (2001)

Terria was my first taste of Devin’s up and down world of solo work. I vaguely remember Syncestra (is that spelt correctly?) coming out, but this goes back even further. I’m not sure what it was about Terria that made it stand out amongst some of the others, but its a bizarre, airy trip through some long and dense tracks. If I had one criticism of Terria it would be that it doesn’t really go anywhere; for all its pomp and scope, it very rarely strays far from the track. Opener “Olive” promises not only weight and heaviness, but also a sense of the uncanny and constant adventure. Whilst I heavily enjoyed returning to this record I do feel that it failed to deliver slightly in those camps. I will quickly say however, that “Earth Day” is a contender for my favourite Devin track.

Esham – Boomin’ Words From Hell (1989)

Esham – Boomin’ Words From Hell (1989)

Booming Words From Hell is the sprung as fuck debut from everyone’s favourite bogeyman, Esham. Our man here bolted out the gate with an amateur yet now legendary record. All the tropes and themes that Esham would continue to explore over the course of his legendary original acid rap / horrorcore run of records begin here, but Booming… also contains a more “street” or gangsta rap sensibility to it. Either way, if you like abrasive and old school hip hop this one is a no brainer.

Embryonic Cryptopathia / Biological Monstrosity / Vomitoma – Split Tape (2010)

Embryonic Cryptopathia / Biological Monstrosity / Vomitoma – Split Tape (2010)

I’ve had good experiences with ExCx in the past, but here the rehearsal room feel is a little too rustic. The riffs sound fuckin’ great – when the rest of the din stops and you can hear them. But hey, this is sloppy goregrind, can I really complain? Biological Monstrosity are the most solid band on this split by a country mile. They play extra dirty, lightening fast goregrind topped with disgusting watery vocals. They are, of course, a band after mine own heart. Vomitoma resort in this case to rounding out the trilogy of gore with a bass-driven gorenoise assault. True, the line between “gorenoise” and “goregrind done crappily” is a very thin one, and no disrespect to Vomitoma, but here the line is trodden very precariously.

Nile – Nile (1994)

Nile – Nile (1994)

Admittedly I had never even heard of this EP until recently, so I went back and had a very good goose, expecting to find the dusty origins of the intricate death metal that Nile is so revered for. Unfortunately, this 1994 cassette showcases a band of completely different stripes. It isn’t bad per se, but Karl Sanders’ glorious personal guitar tone is missing, as is the stunning Egyptian atmospheres. I would say that this is a completist’s listen, for folk who have hoovered up every other speck of music that Nile have to offer the world.

Nasty Face – Horrid Mush (2015)

Nasty Face – Horrid Mush (2015)

Nasty Face are one of my favourite goregrind projects of the last 5 years or so. Playing in the crusty / old school style rather than the tupa-tupa OEF-fodder style, Nasty Face is garlging sickness down the very core. Expect, of course, pustulent pitchshifters, shredding guitars, and barely audible drums at practice room quality. I would have it no other way.

HKE – HK (2015)

HKE – HK (2015)

HKE’s HK record lies somewhere on the more spaced out, introspective end of vaporwave. Few and far between are the tropes of nostalgia and the repurposing of 80s and 90s music (at least, any that is immediately recognisable). Instead we have swathes of crushing ethereal ambience; soundscapes that seem to live their own life with analogue flutter. Its deep, moving stuff, and a listen that I would strongly recommend.

Einstürzende Neubauten – 1/2 Mensch (1985)

Einstürzende Neubauten – 1/2 Mensch (1985)

Possibly a hallmark of the industrial genre? Do I even need to prefix that sentence with “possibly”? I read online that someone called this a “random tapestry of sound”. That particular review wasn’t a good one, but the phrase stuck with me. At first, 1/2 Mensch can no doubt seem random, but what this is is a carefully constructed monolith of industrial noise, encompassing all the atonal and rhythmic duality that comes with such a thing. Is it random sheets of percussive noise? Check. Is it danceable? Yes, I suppose it is.

Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer (1992)

Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer (1992)

Easily, hands down, zero argument: the best Sabbath album with Dio. Released seemingly randomly between the band’s albums with Tony Martin on vocals, Iommi rather unceremoniously sacked off that entire line up to reform with Geezer and Dio to reignite the Mob Rules line up. There seems to be a lot of shit online about Dio’s lyrics on here, but I genuinely don’t think they are particular awful, especially on the usual Dio cheese to ham scale. Its a pleasure to hear Iommi popping out some actual sinister fucking riffs though, after plodding through a decade’s worth of arena rock numbers. Unfortunately for Geezer, even on a tidy pair of IEMs, I can’t do much with his bass performance, even on the remastered version.

Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes (1994)

Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes (1994)

Cross Purposes is yet another Sabbath album in the seemingly endlessly bland Tony Martin era. I don’t blame Martin for this per se, but every album he fronts just happens to be some different variation on the theme of boring stadium rock. That being said, Cross Purposes is definitely the heaviest output to feature this line up thus far (not counting Forbidden) and notably includes Geezer Butler back on bass, even though he was not too pleased about this music being released as a Sabbath album. I mean, can you imagine how that situation even unfolded? Hahaha There are far better offerings in the Black Sabbath canon, as well as far worse. I couldn’t possibly be more indifferent about this. I will probably never listen to it ever again.

Candlemass – Nightfall (1987)

Candlemass – Nightfall (1987)

Expanding on the epic doomery of the previous material, Nightfall enters new territories of pomp, cheese and theatre. To me, the addition of Messiah on vocals steers this almost into the realm of power metal, but is held into more trad or doom classifications by the songwriting and perhaps more importantly, the pacing.

CKY – Volume 1 (1999)

CKY – Volume 1 (1999)

Volume 1 is another one of those records that got played to death in my teenage years. Listening again as an adult, it seems almost like a jumble of different sessions stitched together rather than a cohesive album, but that isn’t too much of an issue when the songs are of this quality. From the instant mega hit of the opening track, the abstract heaviness of “Rio Bravo” or “Lost In A Contraption”, or the downright odd “Human Drive In Hi-Fi” or “To All Of You”, Volume 1 showcases a band that, yes, are admittedly still finding their feet after a bazillion name changes, but are also alive with interesting ideas and concepts.

Elffor ‎– Dra Sad III (Beneath The Uplands Of Doom) (2019)

Elffor ‎– Dra Sad III (Beneath The Uplands Of Doom) (2019)

Its hard to embody the spirit of the early Mortiis releases without completely ripping them off. This is done with varying degrees of success, but Elffor’s Dra Sad III, my first encounter with the project, manages to weave the vibes of those early 90s dungeon synth masterpieces into tapestries of their own. Dra Sad III, with the full title of Beneath The Uplands Of Doom, evoke longform, dense ambient soundscapes, with the right balance of ingredients between composition and aural form. This is, as with many other releases of this nature, perfect for RPG gaming or D&D sessions, or for reading dusty tomes about forgotten lands. Hard to beat.

John Harrison – George A. Romero’s Day Of The Dead OST (1985)

John Harrison – George A. Romero’s Day Of The Dead OST (1985)

This record haunted me. There’s a reoccurring motif that I just couldn’t place. It hit me after a while, it was a sample used by Gorillaz for the track “M1 A1” on the self titled record, which was the first album I really spent any decent amount of time with when I was a kid. I’ve also seen the Day Of The Dead film so I have no idea how didn’t put this together before. Anyway, that aside, the soundtrack has that balance of spookiness and artsy pomp that I have come to love and expect from soundtracks in this vein.

Massacre – From Beyond (1991)

Massacre – From Beyond (1991)

I’ve had this on my to-do list for donkeys years, but finally got to listening to it after hearing a recent Earache post from Al explaining a bit of the goings on. I chose the Full Dynamic Range reissue, which was a solid re-release. I’ve not heard the original, but even on a flat monitor signal through some IEMs I absolutely could not fuck with any bass, which is a shame. Would it be lazy of me to describe this as a typical death metal record? I mean, if you absolutely fucking LOVE death metal then I’m sure From Beyond is a wet dream for you. Of course, I’m not saying this is a bad record, it is far from it. What I’m saying is, is that I like my death metal to be disgusting, grimy and horrendous. This is polished and clinical, embodying the worst of the early 90s sound.

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun (2014)

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun (2014)

It took me quite by surprise when I turned on Radio 1 one day whilst in the work van, and was treated to a single from the up and coming new record from long-time heavies, Mastodon. Wait, like, they play this shit on the radio now? Since when? But I digress. I’ve been meaning to check out some “later” Mastodon stuff for a while, and the cover art for this thing stood out to me by a mile. I mean, just look at it. Unfortunately, however, I just find this record bores me to absolute tears. Sure, it’s put together incredibly well, and the musicianship and craftsmanship is not up for debate. I just highly doubt that I’ll ever listen to this again. It seemed to go on forever, and not in a good way.

Type O Negative – World Coming Down (1999)

Type O Negative – World Coming Down (1999)

Oh, she’s a depressing one! Dialling back a bit from the slightly more sparkly offering of October Rust (an album made to attract female fans), Pete’s doomy wrecking krew instead hit us with tales of death, depression and drug abuse. How cheery! Of course, that wicked Type O humour is there, but as a whole this is back in the Bloody Kisses realm of misery. Good stuff gents!

Nocturnus – The Key (1990)

Nocturnus – The Key (1990)

Keyboards in death metal is usually a something of a turn off for me. Even in black metal, it works probably about 50% of the time. Nocturnus however, are something of an exception to that narrow minded rule of mine. The debut record from this excellent band, The Key, is not as muddy or confusing as its follow up, but is still a maddening and punishing descent into some glorious sci-fi tinged metal ov death. Just look at that record sleeve!

Satyricon – Deep Calleth Upon Deep (2017)

Satyricon – Deep Calleth Upon Deep (2017)

Satyricon gets a lot of shit. Personally, I would say most of it is completely undeserved. I suppose that is the nature of the beast that is black metal; anyone who transitions or meanders out of it (or blends it with something else) is unavoidably going to catch flak from genre purists. Brass tacks: Deep… offers very little in anything new, but is another solid offering in the bands now almost two decade long vein of “riffs, innit”. Frost’s drums once again feel like an afterthought, but this almost works in its own way.

Plasma – Dreadful Desecration (2016)

Plasma – Dreadful Desecration (2016)

Plasma’s second album is a lesson in how to take goregrind influenced metal seriously. Punctuated by disturbing samples about body snatching (and reminding me of The Berzerker’s Reawakening album in the process, if that album had just been any good eh), Dreadful Desecration is a solid and well made production that doesn’t stray too far from its sloppy gore roots.

Jim Kirkwood – Middle Earth (2004)

Jim Kirkwood – Middle Earth (2004)

Jim Kirkwood is something of a father to the dungeon synth world. His compositions bridge the gap between electronic soundtrack music and even – dare I say the buzz word – Berlin school kinda synth fuckery, but its the Tolkien inspired backdrop to these fantastical compositions that really is the icing on the cake. Middle Earth is a long album. I took it out with me and walked a few miles with my dog, burnt a Cuban stick, and marvelled as the autumn leaves fell. By the time I got home, I was a little over half way through, but it felt like I’d been exploring the mountainside for hours like some mad vagrant. I found out later that this was a compilation of the earliest releases, so was even happier to have given it my time.