Classic Album Review :: Kittie — Oracle

I don’t know why I got this album in my head. I was wheeling through my kitchen humming the chorus for What I Always Wanted when my wife, being rather concerned, asked what was wrong with me. The awkward thing is that song is not the only one on the album with singing, but has the least interesting pattern to get stuck in your head.

For being from London, Ontario, this album still scratches an itch that only a few bands can. I hesitate to call it Nu Metal, but it did come out around right around Untouchables by Korn (predating it by a year). Really, a better comparison is The End of All Things to Come by Mudvayne with less “David Bottrill” in the whole sound area.

Very simple guitar and bass. Almost too much (in a good way) drums. Vocals that pierce every inch of your soul. Beautiful singing. To be honest, that is why I have gone this long with never bringing this band up before. I love them, the first 3 albums anyway, but that is literally all I have to say about them.

If you just want something heavy, yet beautiful (in a broken way), you can do MUCH worse. They do the early ’90s sound yet still remain relevant. I mean, Mudvayne and Korn are my only (halfway) decent comparisons, and they really don’t describe this band at all.

Oracle is amazing. Spit and Until the End are good, but a bit more particular. They have one more album, but I hated it.

Personal note: don’t y’all enjoy how I am like “BYE SEE YOU NEXT YEAR” and then publish a review in the same week? I am going to not be doing blog stuff, and I am only going to be writing about music you should check out. I say that not expecting anything fascinating to happen in any other regards this year. I might be wrong.

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Radiohead.

Radiohead is one of those bands, you know what I mean? That band that you like to tell people can do no wrong, meanwhile they have released 3 albums that, at the very least, underwhelmed.

Before I continue, this is less a review of the career of this band and more of a personal reflection. If you could not tell from the intro paragraph, I am biased. There are some fantastic documentaries about parts of their career (Meeting People is Easy is a personal favourite) so I won’t even pretend that I could do such a monumental task even the mildest justice.

The first album (Pablo Honey) came out in 1993. I love parts of this album, and couldn’t care less about others. The Bends (released 1995) is pretty well the same tale. I would say that I like more of this album, but it still just seems to be holding onto the early ’90s grunge aesthetic. I am not complaining for that reason, but more that I came in much later into their career and therefore had certain unfair expectations.

OK Computer from 1997 was life-changing for me. It was the first exposure to the band that I had, and I hated it upon first listen. Looking back, I hated it because I couldn’t understand it. It took about 2 years from its debut for me to actually grasp some (not all) of the nuance and beauty that this album held. The complexity of Johnny Greenwood’s guitar riffs in contrast to the simplicity of Phillip Selway’s drum patterns did not make any sense to me before I was about to enter high school.

Kid A and Amnesiac (from the year 2000 and 2001 respectively) changed everything for me. I finally understood OK Computer, then I watched the video for Pyramid Song. I loved that I didn’t understand it. I didn’t find out the time signature for at least five more years. They started to experiment with a more digital production, using computers and drum machines in addition to more contemporary instruments. The juxtaposition was astounding to me.

Hail to the Thief came out in 2003. I first heard it when I borrowed the album from a good friend of mine, and HATED it. I found it arrogant and winey. Well, I did the first time through it. I went to give it back, she forced it back into my hands and told me that I just need to give it another chance.

Thank you, Cristine. Your forcing me to listen to it has secured it into the pantheon of albums that I will never be rid of.

I fell in love with it simply for the first song, 2+2=5. When I actually gave it the chance it deserved, that song blew everything I thought about music out of the water, and left me weeping uncontrollably while I clutched my copy of 1984 in my left hand and wrote my will with my right.

Melodramatic? Might I remind you that I was a senior in high school at the time? I never took drama, but I deserved an award for being one of the most dramatic people that ever lived. Hell, if I knew who I was back then now, I would actively avoid me.

I digress. I was a certified Radiohead fan by the time In Rainbows came out in 2007. I was playing in a grunge/punk/metal band called All Cut Up, and we were all fans of any sort of music that would change the way we looked at life. I distinctly remember this album coming out because my guitar player and I got it release day then avoided each other for 24 hours to digest what we just purchased.

It was amazing. Even the slower songs (like Videotape) had enough depth to keep our little minds attentive.

That’s where I think Radiohead should have ended. I know of one more released, call A Moon Shaped Pool (2016), and I hated it. It was boring.

While writing this, I have been listening to random tracks from random Radiohead albums. I can still remember where I was when I first heard every single one of them. Either in my parents activity room, on a school bus, or organizing stock at work.

I just stuck to the main releases. There are many singles and EPs that have importance, but they deviate so heavily from the overall narrative that the albums create. I cannot say I recommend all of them, but definitely give Talk Show Host a listen.

Music Review :: The Contortionist — Language

No, this is not a classic review, as I often do. Today, I want to bring light to one of the most interesting albums to come out in the last 10 years.

Language is a beautiful album. It contains playful guitar lines, crushing bass, deft drums, etherial keyboards, and one of the most magical juxtapositions of vocals you will ever find.

Actually; let’s start the review with the vocals, for once. The singer has one of the most angelic voices you will find in music, let alone metal. When he sings, it is with one of the most pure tones you will ever find. He hits the notes with clarity only found in top-40’s pop, and he maintains notes for a substantial amount of time. Not since Tool have I found a more talented singer.

Where he gets very interesting is now he switches (at times, in a bar) from the voice of an angel to a daemon. His growl is brutal, Earth-shattering, and chill-inducing. What is beautiful about this album is that he never sticks to one style for too long. In fact, you do not even hear the growl until almost two minutes into track two.

Language part two (track three) opens with one of the most interest flows. The time signatures make little sense if you do not count them actively. The kind of chaos continues for the first minute, then moves into a sort of lull, where the focus seems to be places more the strings than anything else. Near the two minute point until the vocals kick back in, and singing does not return for another 30 or so seconds.

Okay, let’s go back to what I consider to be the most important part of most bands: the drums.

Not only is this possibly my favourite drummer in modern music, the choices he makes in relation to the music is perfect. It truly feels like the drums are another instrument, unlike other pieces where the drums feel like they are there because that’s what has to happen. Think Danny Carey meets Chris Pennie*, and you get a kind of feel for what he’s doing here. Ghost hits and polyrhythms litter the entirety of this album. I have listened to this collection for about a year at this point, and I am STILL discovering parts that I previously missed.

Why do I bring this now? I bring this album to the attention of those who care because this is what the new Tool album should have been more like. 12 years working towards releasing a spiritual rehash? I love Tool. In fact, until recently, they were my favourite band. The long waits, couple with the underwhelming releases that come at the end of the long waits, really ground my admiration with the band to the quick. Do I hate them? Far from. This sort of revelation just implies that I am going to be very critical of everything that they do moving forward.

*Danny Cary and Chris Pennie are Tool and The Dillinger Escape Plan respectively. This comparison will anger some, but I feel that it is just. Have a better comparison? Let me know.

Found Footage

Filmed by
Allastair Keddy

The bass player in this footage came over today. I have seen him once since I got out of hospital, and that was two years ago. It was nice to see him. He filled me in that this exists. Minus the sound quality, it is actually decent footage of this show.

The premiss was that we had to cover a band that influence us. I was never a huge Underoath fan, especially no the album these songs are from, but I was concede the fact that they were a huge musical influence on what we did.

The last song was original.

I hope you enjoy!

Patient Zero

I created something that I think is okay.

Well, just the video. The song was given to me by my old guitar player {Hannah Rae Jordan} months ago, and I have been trying to figure out a way to share it with everyone since.

She has informed me that this was just a demo, and it has gone through many permutations since this recording. In fact, she claims that it’s far from done.

This does not change the fact that I love this recording very much BECAUSE it feels like a demo. This hiss, though probably not intended, fills a void from the lack of bass. The missing drum track also adds to the almost haunting feel of the song. I would argue that my horrible camera skills do not do the idea of this song justice.

Please, give it a listen. Give me (and her) feedback on the ideas at play. Very rarely, in life, do we find something that reminds us that there is beauty in the chaotic. This song reminds me that everything will be okay.

Music Review :: Adam Evers — Moments

Adam is a talented musician who lives in Toronto, Canada. He is stupid talented, and his voice is amazing. I am getting ahead of myself.

Adam recorded an EP called Moments a few months ago. It blew me away. I’m not normally interested in acoustic jams, but this is exactly what I wanted. Somber, warm, and new yet familiar. I really dig it.

I hate to make comparisons when it is independent music, but it really reminds me of A Perfect Circle‘s acoustic stuff mixed with mild Arab Strap. Beautiful and haunting. I cannot help but feel that this EP is important when I listen to it. The whole adventure last just under fifteen minutes, but the impact it had on me was significant. I have listened to this simple set of recordings dozens of times.

It wouldn’t be a review from me if I didn’t talk, at length, about the instrumentation. The first track is a perfect example of how to do acoustic music right: tasteful violins, huge percussion, wispy vocals, beautiful bass, and minimal (yet poignant) guitar riffs.

I don’t really have a favourite on the album, but I am partial to the song Bodies. I don’t have reason to say any song above another, but maybe because it’s just a beautiful song and a perfect example of what I enjoy about music. Maybe because I am just listening through the EP for the fifth time since I started writing this review and the song just came up again.

Know what? I can sit here all day and talk about how music this EP touches me, or you can listen to it yourself and understand where I am coming from. It’s available on every possible outlet for sale, but YouTube has the whole thing up for stream.

Enjoy!

Classic Album Review :: The Stills — Logic Will Break Your Heart

This is one of those albums that I forget about for a couple of months, then I binge it like I just found it for the first time again. Haunting, beautiful, etherial, other adjectives… I truly love everything about this album. To emphasize: I have been trying to write this for the last hour, and I keep getting distracted by singing and dancing to this amazing bit of auditory bliss.

This album opens with and absolute crushing cacophony of drums, then the bass kicks in giving a sample of what’s to come. On the fifth bar, there is a snare flourish. You are then greeted by a slap of tremolo guitar emphasizing how beautiful the next 49 minutes are going to be.

I’m not going to lie, I have been holding back doing any writing on this album because it holds as one of my favourite albums of all time. Only three albums (Cursive’s Domestica, Sparta’s Wiretap Scars, The Stills’ Oceans Will Rise) have even gotten close to overtaking it in the pantheon of amazing, but they are still miles away. There is something both timeless and time-capturing about this album. It perfectly encapsulates what was going on in music in the early nauts, but can be enjoyed by anyone at the same time.

Lyrically, this album is a powerhouse. The most nihilistic and honest lyrics you will find in the Canadian pop scene. It did come out at a time where there seemed to be a nineties revival where that subject matter is concerned. You had Modest Mouse telling you how beautiful and horrible life is, Bloc Party expressing confusion in the sexual scene, and The Strokes trying their best to describe how life goes when you’re messed up on every drug. The Stills fit nicely by putting way too much description in the mundane: describing things in a situation where you would not be paying attention to them whatsoever.

Musically, this album is strange for me to sing its praises. The bass is cool and driving, keeping the beat and being the main melody next to the voice. Why I say it’s strange for me to love everything about this album musically is because there is nothing incredible or mind-blowing going on. All of the songs are in 4/4. The guitar is primarily being tremolo’d. The bass, though the driving force, is very basic. The singer sounds like he has had five or six beers and a joint while awaiting for his turn to perform on the recording.

There is something absolutely beautiful happening. It’s just perfect in its simplicity. Due to it being easy to follow, it becomes a joy to sing along to.

So, in closing: listen to this album. No, I don’t have a song to recommend. There is a music video I will place at the end of this review, but it is not my favourite. I only have to say that because none of the songs are my favourite. This album is just amazing through and through.

Classic Album Review :: Circa Survive — Juturna

I find this album very hard to write about simply because I think that it is very close to perfect. It contains the very definition of musical genius while still remaining absolutely beautiful. Somehow, it defies stereotypical constraints of music cliché’s while staying completely attainable and comfortable.

Listening again to write this review, there is no recognizable hook minus flourishes on guitar. The melody is carried by the intense and soulful vocals, and the driving bass carrying any semblance of continuity. Even the drums, while they do carry a constant beat that does tend to repeat from time to time, define syncopation as they flit from time signature to time signature with a deft hand.

Let’s go back to the vocals for a moment. Anthony Green has a range matched by few. His voice is high. I am challenged to find many with his range. Somehow, it strays from being squeaky or overbearing. “The Glorious Nosebleed“, which is also my favourite song on the album, showcases his possible range beautifully. Though he never gets very low, the jumps in what he can hit are incredible. Especially from the 2:00 mark to the end.

Really, this album and the one subsequent (On Letting Go) I declare as my personal picks. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s just the absolute shock that a band like this existed when they did, I will always love them.

Enjoy.

Why Metal?

I was faced by that question lately. I was initially threatened by the concept from a standpoint of being afraid of being limited, but I found the opposite to be true the further I thought about it.

To be completely honest, it’s the genre you can do literally anything with and get away with it. Compare “Blood Brothers” to “Invent, Animate” and you clearly see what I mean. The former is chaotic, hyper, and almost desperate. The latter is methodical, depressed, and revels in being beautiful. I am NOT saying that “Blood Brothers” is not beautiful, but I (being a huge fan) acknowledge that calling them beautiful as a descriptor is a bit misleading.

When I was younger, I was initially upset by the local music hole dropping the metal section and just putting Tool in the same section as Iron & Wine. Now that I have listened to more and developed my pallet a bit farther, I realize the monumental task of having to justify I Wrestled a Bear Once being in the same specific category as In Flames.

Sure, we still have Slipknot, Five Finger Death Punch, and Killswitch Engage. If every band performed music like that, it would be silly easy to label things as ‘Metal’ and call it a day. Now, however, we have bands pushing genre’s and sounds. Dillinger Escape Plan and Cephalic Carnage exist in a world along side Periphery, and other than time changes and a way of doing some vocals there is little to compare them.

When someone speaks of classic metal, I have an issue relating them in my mind. I love Black Sabbath, but to categorize them in the same way as Kittie seems like a misstep. What compounds the confusion are bands like Refused and Alexisonfire. It used to be metal made after the nineties had screaming. Full stop. Then those two bands emerged* and everything changed: now punk and basically anything with thrashing could have screaming.

*Yes, Refused are from the ’90s. There was other punk with screaming before Refused, but that is a decent benchmark.

Even electronica and pop started to take parts from metal. With Throbbing Gristle and Skinny Puppy came the whole industrial movement, where bands would use fake drums and keyboards to create sounds only previously found in horror movies. On the pop side, Sleigh Bells were started by a member of a metal band. He adapted many metal tropes into the music that was written.

I need to stop, but I was thinking about this today. If you want me to deconstruct any other musical genres or whatever, leave me a comment somewhere and I’ll see what I can do.

Also, I feel like I need to add that this is far from definitive, complete, or probably right. There has been many attempts to categorize and catalogue the metal scene, and I feel like they ignore entire parts of metal, much as I have. There are even a couple of points I made that I don’t fully agree with, but would have to type pages to make one point. Metal is a vast term, and it has many different forms. I didn’t even touch on most of the -cores, post-‘s, or any specific genres like death, black, and chamber metal. If there is a call to arms, I will put a better list. Even if I spend days on doing so, I won’t agree with some of my classifications, and I will miss so many labels.

…and people wonder why I listen to metal…

Classic Album Review :: The End — Within Dividia

Well, I am highlighting a metal album! This should have no bearing on metrics, at all!

(He says, facetious.)

In all seriousness, this album is very much not fair. Unlike their cohorts in The Dillinger Escape Plan, this album contains no punk influence. That limits the scope of possible fans, but makes it a better listen when you just need to express unbridaled anger.

I do mean anger. Often, metal and depression go more hand-in-hand in my mind, but this album is just intense all the way through. It is a constant barage of hits and accents punctuated by moments of constant auditory oppression. Now, couple that with instrumentation that is entirley not fair and vocals that could have been written by a very talented pissed off cat, and you get one of the most intense albums you will ever come across.

The transition this band took on the next album caused whiplash. They went from a Dillinger-Calculating Infinity-esqe slaughter to more of a Tool mixed with Dillinger sound. The vocalist got “prettier” and they focused more on waves of rhythm, as opposed to shots of chaos. The next album was a fantastic addition to their repitior, but Within Dividia is still where my heart lies. I honestly feel that this album will stand alone for all time as one of the greatest albums in it’s genre to come out of Canada.

Very much for fans of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Buried Inside.