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.

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.