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Look What I Did – Atlas Drugged (2010)

Jacob Suarez

Atlas Drugged is a clever little record from a band that continues to grow in both musical ability and musicality. The beauty of Look What I Did is their music doesn’t come off as complex as it actually is, so even the casual music fan may find themselves rocking out to this. Before the release of Atlas Drugged there was a line-up change in the band, and bassist Chris Bradley moved to guitar, Jake Omen (ex-Year of Desolation) and Ty Coughlin (ex-L.A.O.) joined on drums and bass respectively. I thought this would change their random, silly and hyper sound; but now instead they posses the ability to sound like Cynic, Hank Williams III, Meshuggah, (The) Melvins, Lightning Bolt, Radiohead, 311, Stolen Babies, and The Dillinger Escape Plan; and can do this throughout the course of one song without feeling like you’re hitting shuffle on your iPod every 15 seconds.

The first thing that stands out about this record are the lyrics. Barry (the vocalist) takes smart-ass to a new level of intelligence with his political, philosophical and social satire dryer than my martinis (Note: My martinis are straight gin in a glass that at one point in time had an olive in it). Sometimes the lyrics feel like they could fit into a Monty Python skit or on a Dead Kennedys record. Take the “Serf Song,” for example: played in a dark surf punk style, the song is about how governments are forcing the common man into a mental state similar to that of a serf (an agricultural laborer bound under the feudal system to work on his lord’s estate in the middle ages). “…They see you, inspect you, dissect you, inject you in a test tube, and dress you to comply.” The track “I’m Majoring in Psychology” is about how the average college student doesn’t view school as a chance to further their intellectual growth but instead view it as PCU or Animal House and spend their parent’s money getting fucked beyond all measure. “…Gimme some of that, don’t make me stick my head up to get some of your attention!, books…. Check em out!, books, CHECK, THEM, OUT, let’s spend our parents money, let’s spend that money good, let’s go to college, everybody, can go to college, that means it matters a whole lot, show your work or else you cheated.”

aThe tone and mix on this album is fantastic! Every instrument has its own place but also adds to the other instruments. The guitar tones are rough and dirty when they want to be and light and dreamy when they need to be. Unlike Dream Theater the guitar solos on this record really stand out because Bradley isn’t sitting there thinking, “Hey, look at me, see these scales, you can’t play them like that” and doing unnecessary tapping or sweeping but instead plays more like George Harrison and is thinking “Hey, just a little of this, and a pinch of that, yeah it’s done” and instead tastefully adding just enough to have the solo unique but still work well with what the rest of the band is doing.

Ty and Jake are kicking like Wayne Rooney on every track which makes this a great record to be played in a car or out of your home theater system. My personal favorite track on this album would have to be “Baby Darwins” because of it’s clever song writing. The groove from the chorus into the verse is the band at the top of their game. The song’s ended has a slow build starting off quite happy and ending up sounding like there are fighter pilots flying directly overhead in all directions. In conclusion, buy the fucking album, it’s spinach for your aural receptors.

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TesseracT – One (2011)

By: Chris Amenita

Holistically, this album is more like an epic djourney – yeah, I just made a djentverb. Listening to it is like taking an epic metal voyage, quite the contrary to Metallica’s Death Magnetic and taking a journey through a vomit and turd sandwich.

Structurally, One is like a metal symphony, but musically this album combines elements of metal, electronic, ambience, funk, and just pure epic. I cannot stick this band into a genre if I tried, which is probably the best thing about Tesseract and their first full-length album. You can shove them into the Djent genre if it pleases you but there is really a lot more to this band than one particular sound or style. Because of One’s structure and the fact that this is Tesseract’s first album, I think it deserves an overall analysis rather than a song-by-song breakdown and this band deserves a review as well.

Tesseract originally released their EP Concealing Fate in 2010, which is sort of like a movement in an epic metal symphony. One combines Concealing Fate with five new tracks to complete this epic metal symphony. Whether or not this is what they were aiming for, it absolutely fits into a symphonic structure.

One starts out with a calm vibe, seemingly ambient and serene. The vocals even sound like they belong on an Enya album at some points, but Dan is excellent at controlling his voice and knows how to put his talent to great use. I cannot say this album ever gets as heavy as Tomb of the Mutilated, but many of the heavy rhythms and tones used in the heavier sections make it head banging-compatible. The instrumentation flows smoothly throughout the entire album, and Tesseract’s use of technology is evident but intriguing –they use it like an instrument the way Hendrix and Pink Floyd had done decades ago.

The music finely combines heavy metal, ambience, technology, and groove that aggregately create an intense, epic journey through the mind. I swear this happens even when I’m stone sober and driving while listening to this album… it is always an epic journey. There is so much about One that seems complex, but as you continuously listen to this album you eventually realize the true simplicity behind it. Some of the melodies even seem a bit complex at times as the band writes in different modes and melodic structures, but overall it is not rocket science.

The music is reflective of the band’s name – Tesseract. By geometrical definition, a tesseract is an “8-cell” or a “4 cube.” I am not about to explain this in any further detail, unless you want this to be a review about Shlegel diagrams and geometry. Please Google it or find it on Wikipedia. Point being, a tesseract is a seemingly complex shape but there is nothing too complex about it when you break it down. Ultimately, it is the beauty of this ‘complex simplicity’ that also characterizes One.

The band currently consists of five members, including vocalist Dan Tompkins, Acle Kahney and James Monteith on guitars, bassist Amos Williams, and Jay Postones on the drums. As a band, they have mastered the skill of songwriting and their use of technology is brilliant. This does not mean they pulled a Lil Wayne and decided they could be hot shit by using synthesizers on their vocals and taking a dump through a fan to produce their music. Tesseract uses the Axe-Fx and laptops (probably loaded with ProTools or another very nice music program) to fine-tune their tones and effects, and they put damn good use to it on stage and in the studio.

I met the band briefly after they played at the Webster Theater in Hartford, CT on Halloween of 2010 (with Devin Townsend!) and I really have to say they were an awesome group of guys. Most bands have that ‘cocky drummer’ (Dream Theater) or the ‘alcoholic douche bag hypocritical talentless vocalist’ (Creed) but they were all real genuine people which I am sure plays a role in the awesome music they make together.

I usually cannot say great things about metal bands that include a lot of clean vocals in their music, but Dan absolutely pulls it off and allows his diverse vocal style to blend very well with the music whether he is singing or screaming. Every one of these musicians is very talented; Acle and James not only harmonize well in the ambient, clean sections of the album, but they are masters of rhythm and songwriting. I am also extremely proud to announce that Amos is a talented bassist and the band has mixed the bass very well with the music. You can clearly hear the funky/groovy bass lines, the hard slap technique and the low tones throughout the entire album – this makes me really happy. Lastly, Jay is no slouch on the drums. He brings the complex rhythms of One to life and he made every transition smooth and creative. That is not easy for a drummer to do when they are part of a band that changes time signatures every three seconds.

A bonus DVD is available if you buy the album in stores and it includes a live in-studio performance of the Concealing Fate EP; on iTunes it will only come with the bonus audio track of Concealing Fate live in-studio.

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Devil Doll – Dies Irae (1996)

By: Eitan Prouser

When i first heard of Devil Doll, all i could think of was Coin Operated Boy by the Dresden Dolls. After listening to their masterpiece Dies Irae, i was almost ready to castrate myself for having wronged them so. While the vocals made me think of cheesy horror movies, this truly is a marvel of an album. It comes off more as a soundtrack than an album sometimes, it really feels like a story and an adventure. It takes you through a whole range of emotions and feelings. There really is nothing else on the market quite like this. It takes the whole idea of an orchestral rock band to a level beyond all reckoning. Some would be tempted to call this a prog band, but I believe that would be incorrect.

The overall sound of this album makes it very clear very quickly that Mr. Doctor, the mastermind behind Devil Doll, takes a great deal of influence from old horror movies. The instruments give that feeling, as do the vocals. The vocals are Sprech Stimme or Sprechgesung. This style basically consists of talking with different inflections to express different feelings. It is not truly sung but spoken in a bizarre way. This style was used a great deal by Arnold Schoenberg at the dawn of the 20th century and has not been utilized that much since. Honestly, this style may be the biggest downfall of the album, but it fits the overall style quite well. It may be an acquired taste to some, but it drew me in completely when I heard them for the first time. The first vocals are in Part 2 and are in fact Norina Radovan, a soprano and the only other vocalist on the album, singing “Oyez Oyez” imploring everyone to listen. The contrast between these voices causes a fascinating dynamic that truly sticks with you.

The actual instrumentation is fascinating. Mr. Doctor is on vocals and backing him up there is drum kit, guitar, bass, keyboard, piano, violin, pipe organ, cello, double bass, and accordion. Apart from being an eclectic bunch of instruments, it is some of the most epic music I have ever heard. There is a moment in Part 5 where the guitars play a note that is so powerful that the first time I heard it I was almost knocked over. It is the only time I have heard a note that rivaled the spine tingling Dimebag harmonics at the end of Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates”. The contrast of rock and classical creates an eerie dynamic that bands like TSO or ELO wish they could accomplish. The orchestration trades off with the rock band, sometimes creating a feel of two bands, but when they all play together it becomes a force to be reckoned with. There are moments of cheesy horror movie style playing, Part 1 is the perfect example of this, and later in the album there are sections that are even reminiscent of modern Djent music. The range of these musicians is really baffling.

Overall there is not much left to say but that you need to listen to it to understand. No review could do it justice, and no words can fully capture it. If a picture is worth 1000 words than this album should have a library dedicated to it. The imagery in the lyrics, many of which are pieces of poems by Edgar Allen Poe as well as others, is incredible and the musicianship is just mind boggling. It is very hard to get your hands on an actual copy of this cd, but if you can you will not regret it. This album is by far my most treasured album in my collection.

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Deathspell Omega – Paracletus (2010)

By: Jacob Suarez

Deathspell Omega’s Paracletus is bleak, chaotic, moody, and everything one would expect in a black metal release, except not. With most modern black metal underwhelming their fans with recycled riffs, unnecessary orchestration and pointlessly violent lyrics, it’s great to see a band take the genre in a new direction while being true to it’s roots.
Being that this is a third installment in a trilogy, a brief history of the other parts is needed to fully understand Paracletus. The trilogy is a metaphysical representation of God, The Devil, Man, and consists of the albums Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice; Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum; and Paracletus, which from Latin translates to “If you seek his monument, look around you; Divine law – Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire; and comforter (which is another name for the Holy Spirt).” Paracletus is much more bare and naked than the first two installments of the trilogy. The female background vocals and orchestration from the Fas and Si Monumentum Requires have been completely removed.
The first thing about this album that stands out is it’s amazing production and mix (you can even hear the bass guitar!). The guitar tones are like a ribeye steak cooked medium rare, just enough distortion to sound evil but not to much that it feels like a vacuum cleaning is about to break down. Instead of sounding like a broken microphone is recording a band 15 miles away, the guitars are right up in your face and full of vibrant colour. The drum tone on this record is unbelievable, the cymbals crack through all of the fuzz and distorted vocals like a hot knife through butter and adds and erie undertone.
Paracletus ranges in sound from simple dissonant groves to an all out aural assault. Album opener “Epiklesis I” is stark and abrupt and sets the scene for what is to come. The song is the shortest on the album but is the perfect opener. “Have you beheld the Fevers?” is the rawest track on Paracletus as it’s fast, hard hitting and relentless and is more reminiscent of Deathspell Omega’s first releases. If you are a fan of black metal or avant-garde metal, this album is for you.

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Vinterland – Welcome to My Last Chapter (1996)

By: Bari Ann

Even if you are not a huge fan of black metal, this is one album that deserves a listen. If you want to hear what winter sounds like, Vinterland delivers, offering up almost 50 minutes of icy melodic riffs that are surprisingly easy on the ears. Overlooked by the majority of the black metal community, “Welcome To My Last Chapter” is one of those albums that has achieved cult status, especially among the esteemed community of pretentious metal forums.

Vinterland’s music is a precursor to the popularity of melodic black metal that would occur years later. Truly ahead of their time, the band combines those melodic qualities with another growing sub-genre, Suicidal Depressive Black Metal. Doesn’t sound like a great time, but SDBM is black metal at its rawest. This is music that gets inside your head, whether you want it to or not. Breaking down the human condition to its bare bones, this introspective style is the definition of isolation and sadness, and can be intimidating to those who aren’t familiar with this genre. Vinterland explores the beauty of desolation, identifying with the theme of nature that permeates all black metal. Our sadness is exquisite, and Vinterland shows us exactly why we are so attracted to our own despair.

Formed in Kvicksund, Sweden in 1992, Vinterland is the underground Wintersun of Swedish black metal, giving us one perfect album before retreating into relative obscurity.Released in 1996, “Welcome To My Last Chapter” has achieved a cult status similar to Kvist, the Norwegian black metal band who disbanded after releasing “For Kunseten Maa Vl Evig Vikke,” a similarly ignored masterpiece, in 1993. Vinterland and Kvist briefly lingered on the verge of dominating the scene, actively recording during the era of “true” black metal, but for reasons unknown vanished instead.

Like the force that draws us toward the chilling nature of black metal, maybe it’s better for some things to remain a mystery.

Vinterland has a knack for spot on names. The first track, “Our Dawn Of Glory”, is what every album introduction should sound like. An instrumental passage trumps harsh vocals at 0:01 every time. RIght away, you can discern a few things about Vinterland, especially this: unlike other black metal recordings in the 1990s, they actually give a shit about sound quality. Even within the cold, bitter atmosphere created by waves of melancholy tremolo picking, you don’t have to sort through layers of distortion for melodic riffs. Secondly, the vocals sit just on top of the guitars without being overwhelming or fading into the distant soundscape, Vinterland manages to avoid this common and frustrating issue. Harsh vocals are still vocals, and have to fit into the overall balance of all parts. This track sets the “I’m freezing and alone” tone for the entire album, and of course you will be freezing and alone in the most awesome way possible.

I’m An Other In the Night” puts forth a surprising symphonic quality not as strongly present throughout the rest of the album. It quickly turns into a shining example of how to execute the transition from blazing riffs into slower, intense passages of desperation. The song structure is reminiscent of legendary contemporaries Windir, one of the most renowned Scandinavian black metal acts. Powerful tremolo picking is combined with a tangible sense of isolation, one that surrounds Vinterland Drumming abilities are not ignored; this is a track where you see some solid skills.

This flows into “So Far Beyond…(The Great Vastforest),” extending the symphonic atmosphere with a beautiful piano solo accompanied by the 1990s-required wolf howls. The sound hints of the melodies of Tolkien recluses Summoning on their better-known tracks such as “Land of the Dead,” relying on instrumental passages between harsh vocals and melodic riffs. Again, Vinterland seems ahead of their time, as more recent black metal artists like Imperium Dekadenz use similar piano work to separate moods.

A Castle So Crystal Clear” is another haunting track that relies mostly on keyboard and guitar arpeggios intertwining with classic melodic riffs, featuring intermittent shrieks that I like to call “tasteful.” Riff-heavy and ice cold, “A Castle So Crystal Clear” is an example of the consistency of the band’s songwriting and melodic quality throughout the entire album.

The main riff laid down in “A Castle So Crystal Clear” appears again in “As I Behold The Dying Sun.” This is the point where I see a lot of similarities between Vinterland and Swiss melodic/depressive black metal band A Forest of Fog, whose vocals blend perfectly into the frosty instrumentals. An intense passage of arpeggios and blast beats end this track on a ferocious note.

The dirge-like “Vinterskogen” mercilessly rains down upon your ears. The dragging tempo and insistent keyboard stir up that hopeless feeling every SDBM band wishes to convey. Screams and spoken words accentuate the lonely pain of “Vinterskogen” while managing to keep your heart beating.

Still the Night is Awake” makes effective use of repetition. A fast-paced track that echoes previous somber and wandering riffs, vocals again blend perfectly into three and a half minutes of sadness and beauty.

The following track, for me, sums up the album: “A Vinter Breeze” is “Welcome To My Last Chapter” brushing by you like the winter wind, not too heavy, but powerful while remaining ethereal, leaving you with that feeling of coldness. Instead of repeating myself, let’s just say this is yet another track that embodies the uniformity and integrity that every track on this album possesses.

The last song on the album, “Wings of Sorrow,” opens with spoken word backed by harsh vocals that complement each other’s bitterness. The lyrics bring the album full circle: “I welcome my last chapter…” an acceptance of eternal sorrow, a lifetime of bleak winters. Despite the length of “Wings of Sorrow,” this final journey is one that works, leaving you, again, alone in the forest.

Like “A Castle So Crystal Clear,” Vinterland’s sound is made of crystal. celestial, pure and unattainable. This is early melodic black metal at its finest. “Welcome To My Last Chapter” could stand alone as one single soundtrack, from a walk in the woods to the stars on the coldest night.

Listening to “Welcome To My Last Chapter” leaves you wishing the story would never end. This gorgeous debut is a supernatural suicide note from another world, but one that we will gladly read. Sorrow has never been so stunning.

10/10  (LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM NOW)

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Devin Townsend – Infinity (1998)

By: Eitan Prouser

Only 3 times have I encountered an album that truly changed the way I viewed music.   My favorite of these 3 is Devin Townsend’s album Infinity. It is an opus of songwriting, performance, and production.  From the beautiful to the bizarre, this album shows a true spectrum of sounds and emotions.  While many modern Prog bands may claim to be able to achieve this, no can do it quite the way Devin can.

The best way to really make sense of Infinity is to look at the history leading up to this album.   In the years just prior to Infinity two other albums were released by Townsend.  One under his industrial project Strapping Young Lad and one under his own name.   The SYL album was called City.  This album perfectly reflects the chaos that is within Townsend.  This album, hailed by some as the greatest metal album of all time, is a demonstration of pure unadulterated chaos.  Every track is just crushingly brutal, fast and maniacal.  It truly is the soundtrack for a madman.  The album released under Devin’s name is Ocean Machine:Biomech.  While this album has some very heavy songs, e.g. “Seventh Wave” and “Regulator,” this album is much calmer and has more of an ambient rock feel at times.   Both these albums have that very definitive Devin sound, but in reality are polar opposites.   Both of these came out within a year of each other.   These albums perfectly epitomize Townsend’s mental state at the time.   Needless to say he received professional help.

Following this time came Infinity which truly gave closure to this whole phase of his life.   Infinity is the perfect mix of the brutal and punishing feeling you get from City, and the beautiful and almost ambient feeling you get off of the Ocean Machine:Biomech record.  Most of the album has a strange way of the tracks melding into one another without feeling like its one long song. I personally always thought of it as more of an experience than an album.   To best really analyze the incredible piece of work that is this album is you have to look at almost every track individually.

From the very beginning you are instantly hooked into this classic.   The first track “Truth” is basically an overture for the whole album.   It is an instrumental track though it has some background vocals and some nonsense words.   The album starts with an simple beautiful lead guitar riff in layers upon layers of synth.   Before any time has past at all it becomes a heavy, very full sounding riff.  When i say full, I truly mean layers upon layers upon layers of sound.   It can prove to be almost too much and over bearing at times.   the song ends on a climactic, monumental, grandiose chord that you can almost get lost listening to.   If you listen carefully to this first song you can hear themes from almost every song on the album.   I love that trait of it because every time I listen to it I can feel every song coming up soon.  It is the perfect way to start an album.

The second song is called “Christeen,” and it is a complete change of pace.   It has a very poppy feeling to it which is kind of an interesting break from the first track.   It’s comprised of primarily clean vocals with some screaming mixed in.  Regardless of what style vocals he is doing he is showing an .  It is a very melodic and really just a well rounded track.  It has a very catchy chorus and the drums are subtle but Gene Hoglan proves why he is one of the best drummers in the metal world.

As “Christeen” ends an equally you are suddenly transported from this heavenly place where the first two tracks have put you and are suddenly sent to somewhere much darker.   There are several just evil almost demonic sounds followed by an organ.  Clearly “Bad Devil” is meant to sound like hell.   As the track begins it starts to almost sound like big band music mixed with metal.   The vocals are incredibly deep and genuinely sounds demonic.   During the chorus the voice once again gets clean but words cannot do justice to the amazing effect these vocals accomplish.  I cant think of anyone who has been able to pull off a sound like this.  The closest I can think of would be the Swedish avante garde metal band The Diablo Swing Orchestra almost 10 years later.   This song takes so many turns and really is a great listen but shows nothing about the madness in the mind of Devin like “War.”

“War” is one of the most maddening tracks on this album.   It builds slowly but every step leads to something bigger and better.  There is no way to truly capture all the turns this song takes.  The only part I will mention is the monumental buildup.   It starts small but quickly becomes bigger and bigger and bigger.  By the end of the buildup it is almost unbearable and overpowering.   When it reaches this point a voice cries out “can you just stop the noise for once?! PLEASE?!” Then the sound just crashes and a beautiful and serene voice comes through and sings through the end of the track.  It would never make sense unless Devin did it.

The next track is a real kickback to “Truth.”  “Soul Driven Cadillac” is just gratuitous amounts of epic layered on top of each other.  Its main riff once it hits off is a much slower version of one of the riffs from truth.  It is another one of those maddening tracks.   It is huge and its majestic.    Towards the end of the track there’s some random sounds created in post production.  When you are listening to the whole album in succession this really makes you uneasy.  This being said, if that makes you uneasy you may not be able to handle the next track.

Ants is very similar to a lot of the material from City.   It’s very chaotic and difficult to follow.   It almost seems nonsensical and triggers an intense fear of clowns sensation.  There is no other way to explain the feeling given by this song.   The playing itself is extremely technical.  It is chock full of timing signatures, sweeping, shredding, and just pure insanity.  Even tho the tracks sounds kind of like a joke there is something strangely fascinating about this song and as soon as I turn it on I can stop listening to it.

The following song shows the amazing capabilities of Townsend vocally.  “Wild Colonial Boy” is a step a way from everything else on the album thus, though you could say every song on the album is radically different from every other.   His voice is very grandiose and almost operatic at times.  This song always reminded me of Phantom of the Opera or Trans Siberian Orchestras rock opera Beethoven’s Last Night.   Very powerful and very dark this song has such an allure to it on this album and sticks out from every other song on the album.   It also has a brief moment where it goes into an almost Polka seeming breakdown.   If it had not been Devin this may have not worked but he makes it so heavy and so exciting.  Heavy Devy strikes again.

The next song has a feeling very similar to that of “Soul Driven Cadillac.”  The dynamics of “Life” begin with a very ambient kind of feeling but develop into something huge over time.  This one is not one that stands out to me too much in particular, however it truly continues to show the epic that Townsend brings out.   This is yet another song which the only word to explain the power in the layers of sound is crushing.  It can become overbearing but every moment is worth it.   It may not be my favorite song but it is still a force to be reckoned with.

The final two songs I will couple together.   “Unity” and “Noisy Pink Bubbles” are both very random compared to the rest of the album but both remain 2 of my favorite songs on the album.   Unity is an instrumental and not really the same Heavy Devy feeling you would come to expect from this album.   It has a more electronic feel and is very…well…happy.   It is very dreamy feeling and is easy to get lost in.  “Noisy Pink Bubbles” is very much the same way.   The only differences are that “Noisy Pink Bubbles” uses actual instruments and has vocals.   It has the same happy and dreamy feeling as unity but has more elements of the rest of the album.   By the end of this song, realizing where you have come from the rest of the album, you don’t even know what hit you.

This album is unlike any other album I have ever heard.   It is also probably one of the most thickest sounding.   Once I listened to Infinity, no other album apart from Devin’s have ever been able to keep up and satisfy the same.   I always am waiting for the album that will put this one to the side even just a little bit but at this point this song remains an unbelievable display of an incredible mind.   I implore everyone to listen to this album as soon as possible.   It is a listen you will not regret.   I do not know anyone who cant get something out of at least one song on thsi album, it may be the only album i know with that record.

happy birthday eitan!!!!!!

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