Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse review

What stands out most to me about this album is how unbelievably aggressive it is. It pounds you with insanely fast blast beats and charging guitar riffs pretty much all the way through. This is one of those metal albums where you truly feel yourself being bombarded by the intense wall of sound. All of the songs are around 3 to 4 minutes so none of them overstay their welcome. The production is also quite good, giving the sound a dirtiness that becomes very ugly at times, but it still has a clarity to it. The reverb applied adds great atmosphere as well. I do have a few complaints though, mainly with some of the middle songs. The harsh black metal vocals can have a really strange timbre to them at times (though they actually do add quite a bit to most songs). There are also a few times where I did find myself dazing off just a little bit, but this was uncommon. The lyrics for the most part were very dark and evil satanic lyrics that felt compelling but this can border on cheesiness with one or two tracks (especially the laughing at the end of “Ultra (Pandemoniac)”). Overall I did find this to be a very entertaining and intense black metal album, but it does start to get a little bit tired by the end.

8/10

Highlights: Nuclear Alchemy, Sacred Damnation, Four Diabolicus, The Fire of Power

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Migos – Culture II review

Culture II is almost 2 hours long. A Migos album is almost 2 hours long. Just hearing that for the first time made me think I would end up hating this one. Luckily, it’s not that bad, but it’s not very good either. The biggest problem this album has is that despite being an hour and 45 minutes long, there is a surprisingly little amount of material that stood out to me in any meaningful way, good or bad. Few songs were that bad, but few of them had anything of note, or any uniqueness at all. There are a few pretty good songs on here, but the large majority of them just feel completely forgettable. There’s so little to say about this album. The features are used pretty well in most cases so there is that. The beats are often pretty decent so there is that. Too often though, a song will get extremely repetitive or completely uninteresting. The lyrics rarely say anything of substance and the backup vocalizations (the “brrrrrts” and “skrrrrrts in particular) feel half-hearted and weak compared to the first Culture. Like a few people have said, if you cut this thing down to 1/3 of it’s length it would be decent, but it would probably be no better than a decent album. This isn’t one of the worst projects I’ve heard by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one of the most tedious I’ve listened to in quite a while.

5/10

Nils Frahm – All Melody review

This is a really interesting album. Nils Frahm approaches a minimalistic style of classical music with orchestras, choirs, and wind instruments; then mixes in a healthy dose of electronic as well. The best songs tend to be the ones that build subtle layers and layers of constantly changing sound, very akin to ambient music. However, the best songs also seem to have at least one prominent melody or chord progression that is emotional and gripping. There are three lone piano songs that effectively work as interludes in the album, and while the first one “My Friend the Forest” is beautiful and intimate, the others don’t quite reach that level and can even feel like a bit of a bore sometimes. I also think this album might be just a bit too long. Almost all of my favorite songs are on the first half and many of the songs in the second half get a little tedious or feel like we’ve already been there before. It still does a good job of creating mood and atmosphere but it felt like some of the ideas ended up getting repeated. Still a good ambient/post-minimalist album, but I feel like it could have easily been a little bit better by trimming the fat.

7/10

Highlights: A Place, My Friend the Forest, Human Range, Kaleidoscope

Joe Satriani – What Happens Next review

I know I’ve heard Satch write interesting guitars hooks in the past, but they are mysteriously missing on a majority of the tracks here. Most tracks on this album are at least decent. Joe is still amazing at whipping out really interesting, emotional, and often insane guitar solos, but he really tends to falter in the general songwriting department sometimes. Too many times the hook on a song isn’t strong enough to warrant the amount that it is focused on or played around, and with the backing instrumentation being simplistic and completely non-assertive, these mediocre hooks are left alone and can fall pretty flat. Joe seems to actually address a few of these problems in the second half, with songs like “Invisible”, and “Super Funky Baddass” having both interesting hooks and backing parts. The last complaint is that despite the more energetic songs working quite well most of the time, Joe opts to take most of the album to a much more mellow and laid-back place, which works against him more often than not, with a particularly weak closing track to drive that feeling home. Overall, What Happens Next is an album with some killer solos that do give the songs some nice appeal for other guitarists, but I can’t recommend it that highly otherwise.

7/10

Highlight: Headrush

Tribulation – Down Below review

This is not a bad album. I do like what they’re doing but what bothers me is there is very little variety. The guitar gets very repetitive pretty quickly (outside of the solos, which are quite good). The bass and drums play their parts in the mix well enough but rarely deviate from their core duties. I’m glad the album isn’t too long, as it keeps this repetitiveness from ever becoming too tedious. The songs are well written and I do like the way the progressions and melodic changes keep the ball rolling, but these melodic changes happen so often all over the album, to the point where they become predictable. The ambient and piano intros and outros that appear on some songs are EXCELLENT and in my opinion these elements aren’t used nearly as much as they should have been. The harsh shrieked black metal vocals sound fine but they are very samey and don’t really add much to most songs. My final complaint is the mixing, which has a tendency to bury some of the most interesting parts during a song. Down Below is still a decent metal album, with a haunting and melancholy atmosphere. I just wish they delved outside of their comfort zone more than they did.

7/10

Highlights: Purgatorio, Lacrimosa

Weekly Recommendation: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness + Tonight, Tonight – Smashing Pumpkins

This week I’m giving out a double recommendation (sort of)! I’m talking about the first two songs off of Smashing Pumpkins magnum opus Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Taken together, these two songs make up possibly my favorite intro to an album ever. The first song, titled Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, is a melodic piano piece that begins the album on a serene, beautiful, and sleep-inducing (in a good way) note. This segues into the second song (Tonight, Tonight), which picks up where the melody left off, adding the full band of guitars, bass, and drums, along with a powerful barrage of violins. These two songs are the perfect example of music being able to bring out deep emotions without needing words (although Tonight, Tonight, does have lyrics in it, the song would still be beautiful without them).

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a very long album. It reaches over two hours long even on the shortest editions of it. It is an album that presents an epic journey and to start a journey like this you have to begin with something powerful, something that will make you want to listen for two hours. It is not an easy task. In my opinion, these first two songs make up the best part of the whole journey. The 2 1/2 minute title track intro is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. Needing no lyrics, or vocals at all for that matter, it evokes a feeling of longing, nostalgia, and peace. It may seem like a slow way to begin an album but it makes perfect sense when you hear the song that follows it up.

Tonight, Tonight was one of the many singles released in support of this album, and for good reason. This second song begins right where the first left off. The piano cuts out and the band and orchestra enter in full force. The different instruments seem to swirl around each other throughout the song, playing off of each other magnificently, but the true hero of this song is the orchestra, All throughout the song they provide a counter-melody to the vocals, often being so grand as to overtake the emotion in Billy Corgan’s voice. I’ve used the word “beautiful” too many times already but I’ll say it again because it’s the most accurate word. This song is truly beautiful.

While Corgan has never been known as a vocal virtuoso, his vocal performance on this song leaves a deep impression. The lyrics speak of an abusive childhood that he had to endure and the song is his older self telling him to believe in himself, knowing that he can make it through so he can live out the “indescribable moments of your life.” It’s an inspiring song, especially to those who suffer from a deep unhappiness or suffering. It is a song about holding onto what you love most and allowing yourself to persevere through the pain. Billy Corgan sells these emotions so well in his performance.

To open an album as epic as this, something powerful was needed, and these two songs make this the most emotionally powerful intro to an album I have ever heard. It is so good, in fact, that the rest of the album is spent trying to reach this level of power for almost 2 hours. Some would argue that there are better songs on the album, but none of them left their mark on me as much as this did. This is my go-to album when I lay down in bed to sleep. These two songs are calming, yet exhilarating in a way that is very rarely heard in music. These two songs, on their own, sparked my interest in Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan’s genius.

Weekly Recommendation: New Born – Muse

For this week’s recommendation I’m going with one of the band’s that really showed me the scope of what music could be. They are probably my biggest musical inspiration and are most certainly the band that helped me improve my guitar playing from simple 3-chord punk songs into something much more. They are Muse. This song, New Born, the opening track on their second album Origin of Symmetry, is one of the key songs that got me into Muse. I was originally going to review Knights of Cydonia, but I chose New Born instead because it is probably the song that has more nostalgic power over me. So let’s get into it.

The lyrics throughout the song speak of a future in which technology has advanced past humans and the body is no longer needed. Our brains are connected to a central system like a mechanical hive mind, as seen in the opening lyrics. As such human emotion becomes obsolete and we ourselves begin to metaphorically become machines.

The intro starts off with a mellow and mysterious keyboard part with Matt singing softly over the top. As soon as the progression ends there is a break that builds tension very quickly. This tension is broken by a piercing and heavy guitar riff based around the circle of fifths (for music geeks out there) and from here the song really begins to take off. The tempo picks up, the drums and bass are added in, and the song becomes more frenetic.

The verses kick in with the bass leading the charge in the instrumentation, and the vocals repeat the melody from the intro but it is sung with with much more fervor. From here on, Matt really shows off his signature vocal vibrato and falsetto. The solo section is a very fast tremelo picked part that closely resembles the keyboard from the intro. From there is another verse and chorus with Matt reaching up for a powerful E5 in falsetto. The signature guitar riff from early plays multiple more times to end out the song with a short and eery vocal outro by Matt.

New Born is one of those songs that will surprise you the first time you listen to it. At first glance it sounds like a dark piano piece, similar to a song like Sunburn off of the first album, but as soon as that guitar riff hits you are knocked out of your seat. That may be one of my favorite moments in music just because of the stark difference in tone and how cool that guitar riff really is. This is one of my personal favorite Muse songs and it’s a doorway into Muse’s ability to blend alternative rock with space rock, heavy metal, and progressive music. This is a song that shows how Muse are no strangers to experimentation.