Archive for the ‘Alcest’ Category

Brian Cook’s Top 10 Albums of 2015

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Brian Cook of Russian Circles and Sumac (among others) kicks off LIFE IS NOISE’s end-of-year countdown with some of his faves from 2015.

There was a lot of good stuff happening in 2015. But whenever I start making these year-end lists I gravitate towards the stuff made by friends and colleagues. My top ten albums for the year should probably include the excellent records made by Metz, Chelsea Wolfe, Deafheaven, Mutoid Man, Marriages and Coliseum, but I wanted to pick albums by artists that I hadn’t toured with, so here’s what I was left with (in no particular order…)

Alcest – Shelter
Alcest shed all vestiges of metal on this album and wound up with the kind of lush melodic record all these new shoegaze bands are trying to make. I know this record was kind of a tough sell for Alcest’s old school fans, but I would think that anyone that dug the Manchester sound of the late 80s/early 90s would eat this up.

Jackson C. Frank – Remastered & Unreleased
Life isn’t fair. And poor Jackson C. Frank was dealt a particularly bad hand. And while a few sad bastard audiophiles have long held his minor hit ‘Blues Run The Game’ close to their hearts, his recording career was pretty much forgotten by the time he passed away in 1999. Childhood trauma, schizophrenia, and poor health plagued his life and kept him from releasing any proper full-length following his debut. Ba Da Bing Records managed to cobble up 67 tracks from his career, from early traditional standards to a set of sparse demos for a comeback album that never materialised. For me, the most engaging songs are from those final demos, where Frank manages to craft a handful of songs out of the same few chords and one fingerpicking pattern. The guitar work across ‘Bull Men’, ‘Maria Spanish Rose’, ‘Singing Sailors’, and ‘(Tumble) In the Wind (Version 2)’ is almost identical, but Frank makes each song heartbreaking in its own way.

Mára – Surfacing
Over the course of several years, Faith Coloccia of Mamiffer recorded piano and vocal demos in her home on Vashon Island when winter storms would knock out all the power on her property. Maybe they were going to turn into Mamiffer songs. Maybe they were just little creative exercises. But after being tucked away for a couple of years, Coloccia dug up the songs and released them under the moniker Mára. Try and listen to ‘Love and Infinity’ and not tear up.

Mount Eerie – Sauna
Phil Elverum’s work has always been an exploration of music that operates on the periphery of pop culture. And yet these eclectic elements always somehow make sense within the context of his soft-spoken experimental folk music. Sauna is a particularly diverse record for Elverum, with nods to drone, black metal, and Terry Riley-esque arpeggios all sitting nicely together.

Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
I stopped following Napalm Death after their 1996 album Diatribes. But I checked out Apex Predator on a whim and was hooked right away. I guess I thought Napalm Death had settled into some fairly safe mid-tempo territory back in the mid-90s, but Apex Predator sounds like the kind of vicious, discordant stuff that could’ve found a home on Hydra Head. Brutal and smart.

Native North America (Volume 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985
Back when Myspace was still the primary way musicians were presenting themselves on the internet, I used to investigate bands based on their location. I remember wondering if there were bands in Greenland, and, sure enough, there were a handful of young’uns with electric guitars cranking out some really weird permutation of rock music out in the coastal towns with names I couldn’t pronounce. I’ve always been intrigued by bands that come out of remote or isolated regions. What kind of sound comes out of those cultural bubbles? So when I stumbled across this vinyl boxset compilation, I was intrigued. What exactly was going on in the northernmost inhabited areas of North America? Turns out, there was a lot of Neil Young and CCR worship. But there was also some gloriously sloppy garage rock by some Inuit kids in a band called Sugluk, some devastatingly sad protest music from Willie Dunn, some kitschy surf rock from The Chieftones, and a slew of other strange variants on pop culture. The opening track by Willie Dunn, ‘I Pity The Country’ is worth the cost of the collection alone.

Royal Headache – High
Good songs. No frills. These guys sound like someone else. Maybe it’s The Small Faces? I dunno. I’ve never really delved too deep into The Small Faces catalog, but whenever I hear High, I feel like I’m listening to a classic record from yesteryear. I feel like I should have a really perfect reference point for this band. But they’re not flashy enough for a Stones comparison. They’re more gritty than The Kinks. Maybe that’s what these guys were trying to do—they were trying to fill that gap in rock history, before punk slathered everything in distortion but after all those soulful garage bands started slashing up their speakers.

Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last
I included this mainly because I think ‘Web’ is one of the best songs of 2015. I mean, the whole record is great, but they could’ve rocked that krautrock beat and psych guitar lead for an entire side of the LP and I would’ve been totally fine with it.

Turnstile – Nonstop Feeling
I should not like this record. Imagine a combination of Snapcase, 311, Gorilla Biscuits, maybe even a little gloomy western twang on ‘Love Lasso’, and filter it through 80s thrash metal production. Then slap some artwork that looks like a Spin Doctors demo on it. It’s so absurd that I kept listening to it. I couldn’t figure it out. What were these kids trying to do? What were they listening to and why did they think these sounds worked together? Granted, there are a few moments where it doesn’t work (I can’t handle the 311 moments in ‘Can’t Deny It’), but as a whole Nonstop Feeling sounds like a bunch of kids who didn’t care what was cool and made something genuinely interesting out of their disparate interests.

Xibalba – Tierra Y Libertad
It sounds like Covenant–era Morbid Angel decided to form a hardcore band. So good.

Wilco – Star Wars
When you’re a band that’s been around as long as Wilco, and you have those records that have entered into the canon of classics, it can be tricky to write a new album that can rival all the warm fuzzy feelings we’ve attached to Summerteeth or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost Is Born. So forget that those records exist for a moment. Now put Star Wars on. Give it a few spins. See? It’s an amazing record. Stick with it long enough and you’ll get all those warm fuzzy feelings whenever you hear ‘Taste The Ceiling’ or ‘Where Do I Begin’ or ‘Magnetized’.

Scott Williams’ Top 10 Albums of 2014

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Scott Williams of RTRFM’s Critical Mass breaks down the best 10 albums of the year.

Honourable mentions:
Entombed A.D. — Back to the Front
Exodus — Blood In, Blood Out
Opeth — Pale Communion
Abysmal Dawn – Obsolescence
Anaal Nathrakh — Desideratum

10. REVOCATION – Deathless
Deathless is another fine example of Revocation’s impressive talents, blending tech death, thrash and the occasional progressive interlude. Doesn’t quite top previous releases, but still a stupidly good album.

9. BEHEMOTH — The Satanist
After kind of losing their way since Demigod, the band has found a new focus and hit the nail on the head with this release. Crushing.

8. TOMBS — Savage Gold
Post-metal with more than a dash of black, Savage Gold is dissonant, haunting, extreme – and one of the surprise releases of the year. See also their excellent cover of Bowie’s ‘Heroes’.

7. VADER — Tibi Et Igni
Polish death metal veterans continue on the winning path with their brand of extreme thrash – consistently brutal with bangover-inducing riffs and beats.

6. INSOMNIUM — Shadows of the Dying Sun
Greater than or equal to 2011’s One For Sorrow, Shadows blends the melo-doom-death formula for a perfect result. The best band of this genre on the planet right now.

5. WOLF — Devil Seed
Heavy metal from Sweden in the vein of Iced Earth/Judas Priest/King Diamond etc. Razor sharp riffs, bombastic drums and one of the best vocalists of the genre. If they could drop a couple of the filler tracks, they could easily knock Iced Earth off their perch. Repeat after me: “SHAAAARK… ATTAAAAAAAAAACK!!”

4. ALCEST – Shelter
Taking listeners further into melodic, dreamy, atmospheric territory and leaving the black/post-metal to the past, this album is still on high rotation despite being one of the first releases of 2014. Neige has created yet another album full of beautiful sounds to add to his already impressive back catalogue.

3. TRAP THEM – Blissfucker
Holy SHIT. This album knocks you to the ground right from the get-go, leaving you breathless from start to finish. Skull-crushing riffs over pounding D-beats reminiscent of Converge/Napalm Death, yet mixing it up enough to stand on their own and deliver an album with enough variety for repeat listens.

Townsend has to be admired, not just for the great music on this album but for the projects he takes on in general, the majority of which are born from his bizarre and brilliant mind. Z2 is a double album (condensed down from 50 songs originally), the first part being a typical DTP “pop metal” album taking elements from Epicloud and Addicted, though it feels more mature. The second half is a War Of the Worlds-style rock opera featuring the return of Ziltoid (Devin’s alter ego, a coffee-loving alien hellbent on world domination) similar in musical style to the first Ziltoid album but with a bigger scope/budget. The Ziltoid tale will also be taken to the musical theatre stage next year at the Royal Albert Hall for a show that sold out within weeks.

Extreme progressive metal at its finest, Ne Obliviscaris have been impressing metal audiences for a few years now, and have delivered another fine feather in their cap with Citadel. Epic in terms of song length and musicianship, and a perfect blend of the light and dark sides of metal.

Scott Williams joins fellow Life is Noise contributors Scott Bishop and Deryk Thomas in hosting RTRFM’s Critical Mass on Wednesdays at 9PM Perth time (+8 GMT.)

Check back next week as we continue to count down our top records of the year.