Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Gamut - tonight's playlist!!!

The Gamut is back again this Wednesday evening with more great music!  As always, there are plenty of twists and turns in the show tonight, with a wide variety of musical styles and plenty of bands you may not have heard of!  You don't want to miss this line-up tonight, so tune in at 9 PM EST and listen in via !

Tonight's playlist!
Through Solace - Tides II (Metalcore)
Hilastherion - See the Pain In His Face (Melodic Death Metal)
Antestor - Sorg (Black Metal)
Hit the Deck - Another Game (Hardcore Punk)
Circle of Dust - Course of Ruin (Industrial)
Rosanna's Raiders - Do It Right (Female-fronted Hard Rock)
Mortification - Brutal Warfare (Thrash/Death Metal)
DigHayZoose - Slow Serious (Alternative/Funk Rock)
Dreamer - Shake the Dust (Commercial Metal)
Symphony in Peril - This Flame Breeds Disbelief (Metalcore)
Legacy - Vision of Perfection (Classic Metal)
Tourniquet - Ready or Not (Thrash Metal)
Monolith - Second Birth (Symphonic Extreme Metal)
Saviour Machine - The Night (Gothic Metal)
Terraphobia - The Unforgotten (Metal)
Hands - Northern Lights (Progressive Hardcore)
The Deal - Songs of Yesterday (Punk)
Afterimage - Burning Hands (Deathcore)
Seventh Angel - Abelard and Heloise (Doom/Thrash Metal)
Lucid - New Life (Groove Metal)
Whitecross - Re-Animate (Classic Metal)
Elgibbor - Satan's Doom (Black Metal)
Darrell Mansfield Band - No More Blues (Classic Rock)
Step Cousin - I Don't Need It (Thrash Metal)
Spy Glass Blue - Me Mine (Gothic Rock)
SorrowsJoy - The Suffering (Progressive Metal)
Chicago is Burning - Anne Boleyn (Industrial/Hardcore)
War of Ages - Scars of Tomorrow (Metalcore)
The Throes - Passion Flower (Alternative Rock)
Fires of Babylon - Going Through Changes (Power Metal)
Rose - Crazy Little World (Alternative Rock)
Sacrament - Mortal Agony (Thrash Metal)
Seventh Avenue - Juggler of Words (Power Metal)
Feast Eternal - Rage of Angels (Death Metal)
Jacob's Trouble - Time Bomb (Rock)
Disciple - Remembering (Groove Metal)
Nobody Special - Numb (Punk)
System Failure - Metalcore)
Ransom - Only the Just Let Go (Female-fronted Hard Rock)
Deuteronomium - Lost Indeed (Melodic Death Metal)

Don't forget to visit during the show to login for station chat (you can sign in with your Twitter or Facebook account!) and chat with me and other listeners during the show!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Gamut - tonight's playlist and CD giveaway!!!

The Gamut is back again this Wednesday evening with more great music!  I have some new music in my collection, so I'm sharing with all of you by playing some new stuff that hasn't been featured on the show before.  Plus I have a CD giveaway tonight - someone will win a copy of Coram Deo's "Death Is Dead" EP!  You don't want to miss this line-up tonight, so tune in at 9 PM EST and listen in via !

Tonight's playlist!
Krig - Stop the Manipulation (Death Metal)
Theocracy - The Master Storyteller (Progressive Power Metal)
The Crucified - Fellowship of Thieves (Thrash Metal/Crossover)
Torman Maxt - Job's Plea (Progressive Metal)
Of David - Set Me Free (Hard Rock)
Martyrs Shrine - Butchered Planet (Thrash/Death Metal)
Bealiah - Kairos (Black Metal)
Halcyon Way - IndoctriNation (Progressive Metal)
The Dog & Pony Show - Gaudy 2 Shoes (Metalcore)
Asher (CA) - Exhortation (Female-fronted Melodic Metal)
Love Song - Freedom (Jesus Music)
Immortal Souls - Nuclear Winter (Melodic Death Metal)
Guardian - Rock In Victory (Classic Metal)
Arnion - Fall Like Rain (Thrash Metal)
Coram Deo 0 Boundary Line (Death Metal) - CD Giveaway!!!
A Hill To Die Upon - May the Thing Be Destroyed (Death/Black Metal)
Deitiphobia - I Tore the Sky (Industrial)
Anti-Hell Society - Allegiance (Punk)
Harmony - Enter the Sacred (Power Metal)
Venia (US) - Gentleman (Hardcore)
Servant - Burning Bridges (Female-fronted 80s Rock)
Ultimatum - Conform to Reality (Thrash Metal)
Grave Robber - Paranormal Activity (Horror Punk)
The Blamed - Knock Me Down (Hardcore)
Sympathy - And All Flesh (Death Metal)
Headnoise - Anti-Bodies (Female-fronted Punk)
Velocipede - Just Like You (Alternative/Grunge)
the Human Flight Committee - Serious Emotional Problems Beyond Pacifism (Indie Rock)
Dana Angle - It Could Happen To You (Singer-Songwriter)
Mortification - Metal Crusade (Power/Thrash Metal)
Towne Cryer - Egypt (Female-fronted Metal)
Seventh Angel - The Turning Tide (Thrash Metal)
Sonic Martyr - Death of Self (Alive in Christ) (Progressive Hard Rock)
Bloodgood - Eat the Flesh (Classic Metal)
Drottnar - Ad Hoc Revolt (Avant-Garde Black Metal)
InnerWish - Lawmaker (Power Metal)
As Hell Retreats - Inferior (Deathcore)
The Rex Carroll Brand - Delta Memories (Blues Rock)
Vindex - Ultima Thule (Melodic Metal)
Deliverance - Slay the Wicked (Thrash Metal)
Mortal - Neplusultra (Industrial)
Feast Eternal - Into the Hands of an Angry God (Death Metal)

Don't forget to visit during the show to login for station chat (you can sign in with your Twitter or Facebook account!) and chat with me and other listeners during the show!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Gamut returns tonight!!!

Sorry for the delay in posting the playlist, but some minor technical difficulties nearly sidelined the show tonight.  But fear not! The Gamut makes its return on the mighty Sanctus Gladius Radio!  With a new station, new attitude, and new beginning, The Gamut rises from the ashes like a phoenix to deliver the best tunes to you, the listening audience!  Join me tonight in celebration of the show's return and listen in via !

Tonight's playlist!
ZAO - Human Cattle Masses Marching Forward (Metalcore)
Pax 217 - Melody (Rapcore)
Blindside - Knocking on Another Door (Post-Hardcore/Heavy Rock)
Dalit - Dem (Doom Metal)
Ruby Joe - Fast Lane Sinner (Rockabilly)
Stir - Tattoo Smile (Hard Rock/Alternative)
Demon Hunter - Screams of the Undead (Metalcore)
Sotahuuto - Peruuttamaton vala (Modern Death Metal)
Crashdog - Question Stupidity (Punk)
Divinefire - Hero (Power Metal)
Roadside Monument - Oh So Fabled (Indie Rock/Alternative)
Essence of Sorrow - Supreme Oppression (Progressive Metal)
HarvestBloom - Blood (The Creed) (Female-fronted Hard Rock/Ballad)
Kekal - The Gathering of Ants (Avant-Garde Progressive Metal)
Bride - Some Things Never Change (Hard Rock/Metal)
Elgibbor - Tau (Black Metal)
Dogwood - Confusion Zero (Punk)
Fasedown - False Array (Thrashcore)
Hokus Pick - Turn Around In Circles (Alternative)
Guardian- Are We Feeling Comfortable Yet? (Hard Rock/Alternative)
Saviour Machine - Abomination of Desolation (Gothic Metal)
Joy Electric - Post Calendar (Synthpop)
xLooking Forwardx - Good Intentions (Hardcore Punk)
Vomitorial Corpulence - Plastic Savior (Grindcore)
Disciple - Rich Man (Hard Rock/Ballad)
Deliverance - 1990 (Groove Metal)
Terraphobia - Soldiers of the New Millennium (Extreme Thrash Metal)
Morella's Forest - Oceania (Female-fronted Indie Pop/Alternative)
The Dignity of Labor - Oxygen (Synthpop)
Blenderhead - Escape Reason (Hardcore Punk)
Random Eyes - Living For Tomorrow (Power Metal)
Broken Flesh - Son of Perdition (Death Metal)
Resurrection Band - Little Children (Female-fronted Classic Rock)
Circle of Dust - Levler 1(Easier to Hate) (Industrial) *Refractor remix
The Corbans - Heffy Green (Alternative Rock)
In the Midst of Lions - Opposition (Deathcore)
Silage - Election Skank (Ska)
Paralisis - Paralisis (Technical Death Metal)
Bon Voyage - No Paradise (Female-fronted Indie Pop/Alternative)
Discern - Grace (Death Metal)
Seven Kingdoms - Into the Darkness (Female-fronted Power Metal)
Danielson - Deeper Than the Government (Indie Pop)
Narnia - Dangerous Game (Power Metal)
Oh Sleeper - Son of the Morning (Metalcore)

Don't forget to visit during the show to login for station chat (you can sign in with your Twitter or Facebook account!) and chat with me and other listeners during the show!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Gamut returns this Wednesday!

The Gamut makes its triumphant return on Wednesday, January 11th! We will now be broadcasting via Sanctus Gladius Radio - same time slot, different day! Keep it locked in at from 9 PM EST to midnight every Wednesday night for great tunes! Playlist TBA soon!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

For Today - Breaker (2010)

Every now and again a band comes along that is just captivating.  They're not the best in their genre, the most skilled, or the group that is lauded the most highly by their peers or fans, but when you go see them live, you just know it - they are the real deal.  There's nothing fake about them, no pretenses or anything getting in between the band and their fans, other than the usual obstacles (money for touring and recording, etc).  For Today is one of those bands.  They make good music, sure, but they're not the top metalcore band around, or even the best or most talented band on their label (or former label, Facedown Records).  They are acclaimed in some ways, but their music is seen by some industry pundits and metalcore bashers as generic and uninspired.  How one could listen to their music and think it's "uninspired" is a mystery to me, but then I'm biased because I've been following the band since shortly before their Facedown debut was released, and have seen them live on 4 occasions.  "Uninspired" isn't a word I'd use to describe For Today in any stretch of the imagination.

For Today's inspiration is much more intense than many of their contemporaries, in that their undying devotion to God and Jesus Christ is what fuels their music, and with this record in particular, the spiritual warfare that is at work in the world today, with the battle for the souls of man being waged in the hearts and minds of people, especially the youth.  Now before you stop reading this review and accuse me of being a "bible thumper" or some such, just know that while I have faith in God and believe in Jesus Christ, I don't consider myself a "model Christian" by any means.  I have my own faults and shortcomings (don't we all?), and would in no way be qualified to pass judgment on anyone without examining myself first.  Having Christian faith isn't essential for the enjoyment of For Today, but it helps when you can connect with the lyrics because of the powerful connection the lyrics have with the material and with the players.

"Breaker" is the band's 3rd full-length album overall, and as of this review, their final release for Facedown Records.  This, like their 2nd album, is a concept record, of sorts.  The album's lyrics reflect the spiritual warfare going on, mostly from the perspective of the victorious Christian who is aware of and actively engaging in said conflict.  The spoken word bits are all excerpts of the poem "Breaker" by Jose Palos, and are voiced on the album by Jose himself, a nice touch.  These portions (with the exception of the final section, "The Breaker's Commision") all communicate the hopelessness, pain, fear, anxiety, and abuse that young people feel and experience in life.  These present as interesting contrasts to the bold declarations of spiritual fulfillment in most of the tracks, and make for a unique juxtaposition.  There are times when the poem and lyrics intersect, such as in "Arm the Masses" ("The frontlines are littered with the bodies of the unarmed!"), or "The Breaker's Encounter" where the writer recalls an earlier time of suffering and is now expressing hope and deliverance through Jesus.  Powerful stuff if you believe, and even if you don't, it makes for an interesting ride.

Musically, this is pretty monstrous and heavy metalcore going on.  Guitars are the heaviest they've been on a For Today release, in terms of sheer weight and crunchiness.  The band also uses a bit more texture here, by including more acoustic and clean guitars, and by having more chording here and there that takes them out of the "chugga chugga" metalcore realm and into more varied territory.  The inclusion of some more old-school hardcore punk bits (like in the fast, group-shout in the album's centerpiece, "Seraphim), the melodic "Breaker" interludes, and the continued use of varied time signatures and semi-technical dual-guitar leads helps continue to push the band's sound forward.  Bass guitar is a welcome sound here as well - rather than being totally buried in the mix, you can actually hear what's going on and while not virtuosic, certainly provides the necessary element to the mix.  Drumming remains a strong point in For Today's musical arsenal.  David Morrison isn't the best drummer in metal, but he knows when to go full-bore with double-bass and fast rhythms, and when to slow things down for effect, as well as adding nice cymbal flourishes and interesting fills often enough to let you know he's contributing to the overall package.  Mattie sounds great here, providing an impassioned vocal performance that he hasn't matched on record thus far.  He provides even greater range than before, with a combination of deep growls, mid-level throaty yells, higher pitched raspy vocals (in that Dan Weyandt, Jeff Walker vein), as well as adding some more hardcore-styled shouts and bits that seem to move from spoken word (or shouted) to hardcore to more gruff vocal in the same breath.  Jose's spoken-word performance is also passionate and well done, as are the clean vocals, gang shouts, and the big chorus of voices on closer "The Breaker's Commission".

One thing I'll say that I don't like here is the overuse of 808 bass drops.  I love a good breakdown here and there, but I thought "Portraits" was a bit too judicious with the use of 808s.  "Breaker" steps that up a notch and includes a few too many of them for my tastes, even as a long-time seasoned fan of the metalcore style.  I just think that when the bass drops are so intense that it sounds too distorted, even on CD, it's time to peel it back a bit.  When my nice Infinity sound system in my van is screaming for mercy if I crank this album up too far, it tells me that this is perhaps over the top.  Some of the riffs are more repetitive than in the past as well, which is less an issue for me, since I understand that metalcore is as much about the rhythmic aspect as it is the riffs.  However, I would encourage the band in the writing process for their next album to bring in some of the melodic sensibility from their debut, and combine that with the crushing heaviness that "Breaker" brings to the table and they'll have a winning combination.  Also, with only 8 actual structured songs, the album is a bit short on content.  This is less detrimental in this case, because I feel the overall set of songs is stronger than that of its predecessor, "Portraits".  But however visceral, it still makes for a short listen.

At the end of the day, this is quite possibly For Today's most accomplished release.  I still really love their debut, and "Portraits" stands as a great album in its own right, but with "Breaker" I feel the band is moving in the right direction by making their music even heavier, and by continuing to expand their palette with new elements and textures.  I wouldn't recommend this as an introduction to the band if you're unfamiliar with them, as the concept of the record may come across a little weird, so I still tell people to start with either "Ekklesia" or "Portraits" first.  For established fans of the band, this album will be a must-have, and has received a LOT of play from me over the last year.  I look forward to their Razor and Tie debut, as are most of their fans, and recommend this wholeheartedly to the For Today faithful.


Crosswire - A World in Flame (2010)

In mainstream music, it is good to be number one.  Getting a number one hit or number one album is a lofty goal, but nearly everyone ascribes to it because when you reach that pinnacle, you're on top of the proverbial world for a short while.  If you can sustain it, as a scant few have, you've struck gold.  For those in the underground, it's much less about being number one, or finishing first in the race, so to speak.  It's often more about the journey - how does your music define you as an artist, and how do you grow from album to album or project to project in your playing, singing, writing, and overall artistic abilities.  The journey is about learning, improving, and making interesting art along the way that hopefully affects enough people (other than yourself) to make doing it worthwhile.

It could be said that rock and roll music is not all that original these days.  There are a large number of offshoots and sub-genres of rock music, ranging from the folky indie rock sounds of The White Stripes to the barren wastes of black metal.  Retro is in, and if you play glam metal (Steel Panther, anyone?) or thrash metal (Lich King, Warbringer, Arnion, Evile, etc), you are nearly guaranteed an audience.  But what about bands playing just straight-up, hard hitting rock and roll with attitude to spare?  They have their fan base as well, though they may not be as readily apparent or ravenous for the music as the aforementioned camps.  Still, there are plenty of fringe AC/DC fans who just love hard rock music, and that is the key to the success of bands like Crosswire.

Right away I was struck with the similarities to recent band Jet, whose 2 radio singles from their debut were instant touchstones as I spun the disc and began listening to "This Richman".  Crosswire aren't clones, however, as they distill other influences throughout that song, as well as throughout the album.  Shades of Jet come through, as well as nods to Cinderella, Guns 'N Roses, and a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd (more about that later).  The other thing that is apparent immediately is that this is a low-budget rock record, and PROUD of that fact.  The production values are very stripped down and the sound is raw, which helps give this record some charm and spunk that it would lack if it had been more processed and more "sterile" sounding.  There is an undercurrent of blues permeating this record that gives the songs a certain swagger, and the whole thing is very catchy and memorable, a nice feat for a new band, especially given the somewhat throwback nature of their chosen style.

Guitars ring out loudly and without much regard to what might get in their way, with a nice crunchy tone that recalls the aforementioned bands without aping any of them.  The occasional clean or acoustic guitar is also gleefully under-produced, which means that sometimes you can hear the mistakes or sections where the band isn't at their best.  This works both for and against the band, in that, this almost "live" feel shows what the band might sound like in a club and that they can pull the material off in a live setting, but may wear on some listeners who look for a more polished album performance.  Bass guitar is well done, and even featured in one track ("Justin Case", a short instrumental, almost a joke song), sounding nice and adding sufficient undertone to the proceedings.  Drum work is mostly tight, though a few slightly more sloppy spots again highlight the live feel of the album.  Keys (organ work, primarily) is good here, and adds a nice touch.  A few tracks benefit from that extra layer, and they are well played to appropriately add that layer without being obtrusive.  Vocally, the album is a mixed bag.  Seth is at times right in the pocket where he needs to be, hitting notes on the head and singing/howling his heart out.  There's one portion of "Look To the Sky" which is particularly impressive, where he pulls out a rapid-fire delivery of several lyrics that echoes Guns 'N Roses' Axl Rose in terms of how he pulls it off.  Then there are moments where he falls flat, literally, by under-singing notes just enough that it becomes apparent he's at the limit of his range.  The other moments where things don't stack up vocally are the slower bits, particularly the ballad "Miles To Go".  Seth needs to develop his vocal chops a bit more before attempting this kind of emotionally heavy ballad, because while his honesty is felt, his performance leaves a lot to be desired in this track.

"A World in Flame", the band's debut, is a solid, listenable hard rock album that benefits from the zeal and attitude that comes through the performances, as well as the apparent knack for songwriting that is already present in the material.  Where it is lacking is their overall tightness and polish.  I feel like if the band tightened their musical attack ever so slightly, and polished the production in the same manner, the rough edges of the band might be honed down just enough to make the listening experience that much more enjoyable.  The other thing that must be said is that while they make effective up-tempo rockers ("This Richman", "World In Flame" or "Southbound Train"), as well as good mid-tempo stompers ("(Stop Your) Love On the Road", "Look At the Sky" or "Desert Eagle Blues"), they haven't mastered the ballad yet.  "Miles To Go" comes across as the bands' "Freebird" moment, where they'd hope the entire club was on their feet waving lighters around and singing along to the up-tempo chorus.  The problem is, where "Freebird" is a classic because of its winning combination of songwriting, emotion, energy, and flawless performances, "Miles To Go" just comes off as amateurish by comparison, and the aforementioned "live" feel of the record just exacerbates this by showing all too up front that the band isn't ready to take on this kind of song yet.  Add the cheesiness of the lyrics (despite being heartfelt), and the album is taken down a couple notches because of this one albatross of a track.  Having said that, it's not the worst ballad in history, just a painful reminder that the band needs to continue to develop their songwriting chops before taking on this kind of challenge again.  Fans of hard-hitting rock and roll that tire of the multi-layered and over-produced schlock on the radio will rejoice in this release, and I find myself spinning it semi-frequently just to get that bluesy rock and roll flavor in once in a while.  I will recommend this to fans of old-school rock, as well as fans of Jet or the other bands mentioned earlier.  There's plenty to like here, and if you can see past the flaws, you're in for a pretty good listen.


Eisley - The Valley (2011)

You have to admire the persistence of artists, especially those who were born to be so.  Many a musician well past their so-called prime have been accused of being washed-up, has-been players who shouldn't even be out embarrassing themselves on the club circuit, let alone trying to recapture their "glory days".  Other musicians get out there and make great music but fail to make an impact and quit out of sheer frustration due to the lack of recognition of their art.  But for those who were truly made to be musicians, it's difficult for them to get out of the craft, even when life comes at them from all sides and makes things more "interesting" than they might be used to.  This is when the rubber meets the road, and when only the strong survive.

The difficulty and drama Eisley experienced from 2007 forward has been well documented, so I won't write a book here about the events that caused the band's 3rd studio full-length release to be so delayed since 2007's "Combinations" album, the release that was to catapult the band into super-stardom (in indie-pop terms, anyway), and get Eisley the recognition they so rightfully deserve as one of the reigning female-fronted bands of this style.  Sadly, though "Combinations" did raise their profile somewhat, it failed to garner the band the fame and record sales that the record company was probably hoping for, and as a result, the relationship between Eisley and Warner Bros was likely tenuous prior to the end of their contract came up in 2010.  Add the personal tragedies and drama within the ranks of the band, and it's easy to see why it took nearly 3 years between writing and recording to finally get their 3rd album out to the fans.

One thing that must be said about Eisley is that they certainly know who they are.  While the band's sound has shifted away from the slightly more obtuse indie-pop of earlier efforts to a much more radio-ready version of their sound, it's still immediately recognizable as Eisley, in part due to the consistency of their material, but also the lovely voices of the DuPree sisters and their effortless delivery (despite their assertions to the contrary).  The band still combines a somewhat tough (for indie-pop, anyway) guitar delivery with delicious vocal harmonies, acoustic and mellow passages, perfect pop melodies, and tight instrumentation.  What has changed since the earlier releases is that they have a much more "focused" sound, than they did early on.  Some songs lean more toward the melancholy while others are more "up" or happy sounding, but nothing sounds too far from a middle ground that vacillates between "hopeful yet pensive" and "sad but optimistic".

Guitar is just right for this kind of music - the sort of tightly played, yet slightly lazy rhythm playing that embodies what makes this kind of music so much fun to listen to.  It's deceptively simple, the kind of thing that might give an aspiring musician (who's also a fan) the impression that they could run up on stage and join in with the band and jam out.  At the same time, it's also concise in its presentation, well executed and content to be an integral part of the instrumentation, but not overbearing in the mix.  Piano and keyboard work is excellent as always, with Stacy's playing on this album reflecting an almost "bouncy" quality that keeps the mood light, even in the more somber songs.  Bass guitar sounds good alongside the guitars and drums, and is well played, though as expected with this style, not flashy or doing anything overly complicated.  Drum work is competent and well suited to the material, with the appropriate level of weight when needed, and more dynamic when the songs call for it.  The additional orchestral flourishes (such as is found in "Kind", for example) are a nice touch, and sound great in context with the material.  As always, vocally the material is a delight.  While Chauntelle maintains that her vocals aren't her strength, I personally feel all 3 sisters sound fantastic, and that perhaps that imperfection is part of the charm of the overall vocal sound - there's a certain feeling present in a voice that isn't classically trained that you just don't get from vocalists who are trained to avoid certain personal inflections or inclinations.

I've been listening to this album pretty solid for months now, and I think it's a strong release.  One understands the context of the lyrics better when having some knowledge of the events leading up to the album's release, which isn't necessary for interpreting them, but certainly gives the listener the upper hand.  The album's penchant for lyrics dwelling on broken or lost love is both a strength and a weakness, in that the common theme works well, but by the end of the album it can be a bit too much drama.  After all, how many songs can one write about the dissolution of a marriage and love relationship before they've said everything that can or needs to be said about the subject?  Still, that's only a minor criticism, as there's enough depth and breadth to the songs that the subject matter isn't entirely stale by disc's end.  I do miss the more obtuse lyrics of some of the earlier releases, and I also miss the more broad scope of material as well.  This album, as I said, is very focused in sound.  Don't expect to hear a "Marvelous Things" or "Lost at Sea" here, because you won't.  There's far more "Telescope Eyes", "Invasion", or perhaps "Golly Sandra" in the material here.  One of the things that initially attracted me to the band was the sort of weird vibe that "Marvelous Things" and its video had.  That's not what made me stay hooked, however - it was the vocal harmonies and the combination of songs that were incredibly tuneful and memorable all at once.  So while the band has in some ways "lost their innocence", they still have the memorable and tuneful material in droves, so a record like this is infinitely listenable.  I guess the best way to say it is this: this isn't my favorite Eisley release, but I consider it a triumphant return for a band that was in the throes of personal tragedy, and certainly a record that any fan of Eisley should eat up without hesitation.  Fans of indie-pop in general undoubtedly already know of this album, and likely already have it in their collection.  If you're just getting into the style, I'd recommend getting "Room Noises" first, if only to see the range of the band before delving into either "Combinations" or this platter.  Otherwise, I have no reservations recommending this strongly.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Album of the Moment - Mastodon's "Crack the Skye"

I must admit I'm quite "late to the party" where Mastodon is concerned.  I grew up listening to a group called Mastedon, which is an entirely different kind of animal: a semi-progressive AOR/hard rock project helmed by one John Elefante, now more known for his pop albums than his rock material.  But in the modern age, Mastedon is mostly forgotten and Mastodon rules the minds of the modern metal masses.  I'd heard the name, seen the cool album art and heard samples, but hadn't bothered to buy any of their material yet until earlier this year when I happened upon copies of both "Blood Mountain" and "Crack the Skye" still-sealed and priced to sell at my favorite regional music store, so I thought to myself, "Perhaps it's time to find out what all the fuss is about."  So I bought the 2 CDs and took them home with me.

"Blood Mountain" is a good listen, though it gets a touch repetitive toward the end.  I probably need to give it a few more spins before I give it a final judgment.  But "Crack the Skye" resonated with me immediately.  It's a dense, brooding collection of progressive post-sludge metal that combines the thick chunky guitar riffing of their earlier material with much more atmosphere and a good melodic sense, even if the melody lines are a bit spare at times.  What struck me as well was the eerie, almost Ozzy Osbourne-esque vocals at times, and the judicious use of double-tracked vocals to include an underlying deeper-toned partner vocal which adds a nice touch.  I also appreciate the way they mix up the time signatures here and there, bust into an interesting solo once in a while, and just have loads of atmosphere in tow.  "The Czar" is a fantastic musical ride, starting out slowly and building through crescendos of riffs and swells of drums, "Oblivion" is a perfect lead-off track and single, with it's immediately engaging riff and sound, and the other songs on the album provide for plenty of listening enjoyment throughout.

I'm not ready to call myself a Mastodon "fanboy" just yet, but I'm starting to see why they have such a big fanbase.  I quite enjoy this CD, and am hoping as I collect more Mastodon material, I'll find something to love about each one.  I'm considering going all-vinyl for the rest of my Mastodon purchases, in part because I'm a collector and just love vinyl, but with music like this that has that real dense, warm feel to it, vinyl is the perfect medium, especially since they draw influences from Black Sabbath and early hard rock/metal like that as much as they're channeling Kyuss or The Melvins at times.  If you're reading this, you're probably laughing because you've heard this all before and I'm just telling you what you already know, but so be it.  I'm just glad I finally jumped on this particular bandwagon.