Sunday, September 1, 2013

Urbandub - Esoteric (2013) Album Review

Finally. The guys (and girl) are back. Make no mistake about it, this is Urbandub's heaviest and dreamiest album at the same time, and probably their most cohesive effort since 2005's Embrace. They haven't been around since 2009's The Apparition, but it feels like they've been gone for longer.

Their last two albums, The Apparition and Under Southern Lights, no doubt won them a slew of new fans, but it didn't quite appeal to some of their older fans (me) - old both in fandom tenure and actual age. For some reason, those albums sort of left a bad taste in my mouth no amount of toothpaste could cleanse (insert dramatic sound clip here). Interestingly, both albums were recorded at Tracks studios in Manila with the same producer - Angee Rozul. I haven't quite penetrated the production fabric that snugly wraps Esoteric, but it's quite obvious they decided to record elsewhere this time around - my guess is in Tower of Doom studios, after lead singer Gabby Alipe's successful stint with Franco's 2010 self-titled debut album which was recorded in the same studio. Switching studios was what exactly this band needs.

That said, it seems we've honed in to what probably was the problem with their past two releases. Esoteric boasts a far superior guitar mix compared to The Apparition and USL. The vocal mix is more layered, adding a much-needed anthemic sound to their choruses, and the drums pack more punch.

But then I noticed something else was different with this band. One being Alipe's singing. The vocal arrangement is more refined here than in any other Urbandub record. A good example is the stanza and chorus of the album opener, "Stars Have Aligned", especially when Alipe sings the line "...god, a little pity just a little" (?), exuding playful wordplay and confidence in Alipe's ability as a now veteran vocalist for a band that's been around for more than a decade. Another is the album's first single, "Never Will I Forget", paints dream-pop bliss as Alipe coaxes listeners to "reminisce". I'm not a fan of the screamed "long time no see" part though - it's weird picturing two friends screaming "long time no see!" into each other's ears. That's just not how those things go down, in my mind at least.

Sonically, the album starts heavy, slows down in the middle, and ends heavy. The heavy songs do well to bookend this concise 10-track album, featuring some of the most down-tuned, dynamic, and crunchiest riffs this band has ever put on record that I won't be surprised if they used 7-string guitars on some of them. The slower songs are, I would say, standard Urbandub fare - the most notable being "When Love Is Not An Answer" featuring a simple, but hastily finger-plucked bass line over a slow but deliberate drum tempo. There's something special about it - and the same can be said about the rest of the tracks. Definitely give this album a listen. You won't regret it.

- This is as heavy and dynamic as Urbandub can get
- Dreamy

- ...

9 out of 10

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Overrated Bands: Godspeed You! Black Emperor

So, I want to kick off this new series after having indulged in music discovery a few days ago. The theme was "post-rock" and I scoured the internet for recommendations from fans of the genre. If you're on the same journey like me, you will know that in a few clicks you will be overwhelmed with high praises for the aforementioned band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. From then on, there was no doubt in my mind these guys are considered one of the best post-rock bands in existence today.

But I don't get it.

To put it succinctly, they make near-inaccessible music that requires a very specific mood to get into - people say it goes best with acid (I don't do drugs), or while taking a stroll at night, or while sulking in the dark. The music just seems inflexible to me, is all. I want music that I can listen to and enjoy regardless of location, time of day, and level of sobriety I'm in. Having to subject yourself to such stringent requirements before you can enjoy a piece of music is no fun at all. I dunno. Maybe it works for you.

Friday, April 19, 2013

An exhaustive list of Mainstream/Party Hip-Hop and RnB songs from the mid 90's to the early 2000's

Ever felt nostalgic? Or looking to get any house party poppin? This is an exhaustive list of Mainstream/Party Hip-Hop and RnB songs from the mid 90's to the early 2000's hand-picked by yours truly - all in alphabetical order by artist. I will try to keep this list updated as I find more tracks. Enjoy.

List starts here:

2Pac - Lost Souls
Aaliyah - More Than A Woman
Artful Dodger & Craig David - Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta)
Artful Dodger & Craig David - Woman Trouble
Babyface & LL Cool J - This Is For The Lover In You
Lil Bow Wow & Ciara - Like You
Bubba Sparxxx - Ugly
Busta Rhymes - Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See
Camron - Hey Ma
Ciara - 1, 2, Step
Coolio - Too hot
Craig David - Fill Me In
Craig David - Last Night
Eve & Gwen Stefani - Let Me Blow Your Mind
Fabolous ft. Nate Dogg - Can't Deny It
Fabolous & Tamia - I'm So Into You
Fabolous, P. Diddy, & Jagged Edge - Trade It All (Part 2)
Fat Joe ft. Ja Rule, Ashanti - What's Luv?
G-Unit - I Wanna Get To Know You
Ja Rule ft. Vita - Put It On Me
Ja Rule & Ashanti - Mesmerize
Jagged Edge ft. Nelly - Where The Party At
Jermaine Dupri ft. Nate Dogg - Ballin' Out of Control
Joy Enriquez - Tell Me How You Feel
Juvenile - Slow Motion
Kanye West ft. Syleena Johnson - All Falls Down
LL Cool J - Hush
Ludacris - Southern Hospitality
Mase - Feels So Good
Missy Elliott - The Rain
Mystikal - Shake Ya Ass
Mystikal - Danger
Natalie - Energy
Nelly - Country Grammar
Nelly - E.I.
Nelly - Ride Wit Me
Nick Cannon ft. R. Kelly - Gigolo
Notorious B.I.G. - Sky's The Limit
Notorious B.I.G. ft. Puff Daddy, Mase - Mo Money Mo Problems
NSync ft. Nelly - Girlfriend
Puff Daddy & Mase - Can't Nobody Hold Me Down
R. Kelly - Ignition (Remix)
Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell - Beautiful
Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell - Drop It Like It's Hot
Tamia - I'm So Into You
Tamia ft. Talib Kweli - Officially Missing You (Remix)
Thalia ft. Fat Joe - I Want You
The Game ft. 50 Cent - Hate It Or Love It
TQ - Daily
TQ - Westside
Twista - Sunshine
Twista - Overnight Celebrity
Twista ft. R. Kelly - So Sexy
Usher - You Make Me Wanna
Usher ft. Ludacris - U Dont Have To Call (Remix)
Usher - Nice & Slow

Don't hesitate to add more tracks in the comments below...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Top 5 Soundtracks for Romantic Comedies

It seems the best way to discover new music these days is to watch movies and hopefully stumble upon good music within the movie (at least for me). Strange enough, only romantic comedies do this for me. This list consists of movies that I have seen, so if you think I've missed a really good movie soundtrack, do say something in the comments.

Without further ado, here are my top 5 so far:

5. Silver Linings Playbook

I admit, the soundtrack is barely noticeable, except for its overwhelming love for Stevie Wonder.

Best musical moment: The scene outside the theater where Pat once again goes bonkers over "My Cheri Amor". The pleasant, jolly musical backdrop to Pat's inner turmoil is nothing short of genius, and in my experience, quite true in real life. Ever tried cheering yourself up with 'happy' music with a broken heart?

4. Garden State

This movie introduced me to The Shins, Zero 7, and Nick Drake, and I felt this movie would've sucked if it weren't for the great soundtrack (and Natalie Portman).

Best musical moment: The airport scene, with Frou Frou's "Let Go" in the background.

3. Crazy Stupid Love

This movie introduced me to The Middle East, and a really quirky, mexican-flavored reggae version of the song "Animal" by Miike Snow. Late Night Alumni is also here.

Best Musical Moment: Not surprisingly, the end scene with Middle East's "Blood". I guess I'm a sucker for songs that close a movie really well (see number 4).

2. 500 Days of Summer

This movie introduced me to The Smiths, Temper Trap, and Carla Bruni.

Best Musical Scene: It involves a song I don't even particularly like - it's the scene where ailing Tom distracts himself with architecture while Summer gets married, with Wolfmother's "Vagabond" in the background. It's the same concept used in Silver Linings Playbook - joyous, uplifting music masking inner turmoil.

1. Celeste and Jesse Forever

I have to admit - I really only made this stupid list just so I could have an excuse to heap praise over this movie's spectacular soundtrack. The movie itself isn't that good compared to the others on this list (except maybe for Garden State), but the music here is just fabulous. This is probably the only movie where the soundtrack literally jumped out of the screen and compelled me to go look for each and every song. It introduced me to a bevy of artists I've never heard of before (Vetiver, Sunny Levine, Mr. Little Jeans, Shabazz Palaces, Donnie & Joe Emerson, etc) and a couple of good oldies.

Best musical moment(s): This is a double whammy: The wedding scene with Sunny Levine's "No Other Plans" playing in the background; and the scene right after where Celeste is outside the tents drinking liquor and smoking a cigarette while watching the fireworks, with Donnie & Joe Emerson's "Baby" providing a nice musical backdrop. So much awesome music.

The Honorables:


Just because it had a very clever ending with the cut-out cartoons of Arthur and his lady accompanied by Daniel Merriweather's "Little Bit Better".

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Weeks Later: Franco Reyes' Soul (Adventurer)

Photo by Mark Perez
It's been a couple of weeks since the release of "Soul Adventurer", and it still hasn't loosened its grip on a lot of people's ears (I know mine are still hooked). Yes, it's that awesome of an album it deserves another post in this blog. There are certainly a lot of areas the review failed to cover, something that has become apparent after numerous "tweaks" since it was published. This post aims to address all the pent-up compulsions once and for all.

As already stated, it's been several weeks, and any person who has consistently listened to the same album over and over will surely notice the bells and whistles, quirks, and the occasional dud. Speaking of duds, I have the same opinion of Razor since day one, that is - it's quite underwhelming considering it's surrounded by tracks that are above-average at the very least. This one is just plain average, reminiscent of the craft work of one Dave Grohl and company in the Foo Fighters' "One By One" album where most songs seem bored with themselves. It's a one off.

Then there's the overuse of "jah" in lieu of the more conventional "the" in the chorus of Uprising. One or two strategically placed jahs would have sufficed, any more seems like taking the rasta vibe a bit too seriously. Well, the song actually goes all-out rasta by the end so I guess all the left-handed passing of the doobie (or dutchie, or kouchie) was warranted.

Also, what's up with A Prayer? Was the line "then it just hit me" a conscious stylistic decision or a gaping deficiency in subject-verb agreement?

Nitpicking aside, yes, this is still quite the amazing album. Songs like Renewal have slowly risen from the rubble to become one of the top tracks, at first disguising itself as a mellow track with the signature reggae up-stroke over a rare Franco falsetto (a first), but halfway through, listeners are shown subtle signs of riffage that eventually explode into one of the heaviest, swirling riffs this album has to offer - all over the squeals of the lead guitar on wah. This particular section of the album is just pure zoned-out unadulterated rock paradise - something I always knew someone like Reyes is capable of with eyes closed. It's pretty hard to put on paper, but you can definitely feel it while listening to the song (go do it now if you haven't).

Blame is practically the musical representation of red wine, vastly improved after more than ten years since it first debuted as a "Frank!" song. Since its inception, the verses have been reprogrammed to sound starker than the original, giving off a sense of urgency over the original's slightly whiny grunge melancholy. Despite the changes, the chorus is fine untouched. It's as effective and catchy as it was, and could go down as one of the best choruses in the album, if not in Reyes' entire catalog. Hefty claims, yes. And it certainly gives Across The Milky Way a run for its money.

It's astonishing that no other Filipino rock musician could step up to the musical plate the way Reyes does, and it's been a long wait before he showed up. Sure, there are the greats and some others who have the potential, but they are nowhere near the same level of polish and sophistication as Reyes musically. He may not be a chart-topper like the Eraserheads once were, but he has already achieved what most musicians, including the Eraserheads, could only dream of.

Do you know of any Filipino musicians that could give Franco a run for his money? Post them in the comments.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Franco - Soul Adventurer (2013) Album Review

Album cover
Soul Adventurer is Franco Reyes' second major label release, unfortunately without most of the original Franco line-up that made the eponymous album in 2010 (I honestly don't care really). When the isolated corners of the internet were abuzz that production for Soul Adventurer was underway, I would hear Reyes played all the instruments in the record himself, with the exception of drums - which was done by Janjan Mendoza (ex-Franco / Urbandub drummer).

As production continued, he eventually recruited his long-time bandmate from Cebu, Paul Cañada (The Frank), to fill in the vacant ranks and to play guitar on some tracks. What tracks, I've no clue. This video suggests Cañada's guitar is present in "Renewal", but we won't know for sure until we see the liner notes of the album (still to be released on February 25, 2013 at the time of this writing).

This album contains 12 tracks - well, there are exactly 17 tracks, but 5 of which are outros and little snippets. Right off the bat, the first track "To Survive" has "Janjan Mendoza" written all over it. If any of you have heard any recent Urbandub album, you'll learn Mendoza is quite the drum&bass connoisseur. Unfortunately, while he's one of the better hard-hitting Pinoy rock drummers today, his love for drum&bass is mostly at the expense of his strengths. Which leads us to the lowest point of this song (and this album, in fact) - the first stanza. Subpar, almost sloppy, drum&bass drumming strewn across 16 bars is a shame. Luckily this will be the first and last time anyone's going to hear this kind of drumming in this album. It almost ruined an otherwise really good album opener, to be honest, but the rest of the track more than makes up for it. Overall, the song is straightforward "Franco Rock", as most of you have come to know, with a crunchy and blazing middle eight. Reyes laments in the chorus, "We'll pick up all the pieces to survive; We'll learn from our mistakes to make it magical", as if to acknowledge the falling out of the original Franco line-up.

The early part of "Moonset" has a very strong Queens of the Stone Age vibe to it, but eventually settles into familiar Franco territory. The most notable part being when Reyes sings "I'll be fine... alone(?)" over an almost dream-like rhythm section. It drives me nuts when he sings the last word of that line down to F#3 but never goes further down to F3 - which is probably how most singers would bookend that section of the song. Reyes is different. He just lets F#3 ring out and I was half expecting him to go down to F3 the entire time. The first time I heard it, I was floored and thought it was genius.

"Better Days" is one of the first tracks I've heard from the album (thanks to some Youtube videos). It makes no reservations and jumps into a reggae beat right after a hard intro, proclaiming "Come hear jah sound; Spreading good vibrations all over this town". Positivity abound. It's Herbal Midikishan - as Reyes would put it. He is no stranger to reggae and his love for the genre oozes in this song. The transitions between the reggae beat to hard rock is slightly off-putting at first, but I got used to it. This song also has one of the coolest outros you'll ever hear.

One of the stand-out tracks for me is "Across The Milky Way", a slow-paced hard rock number reminscent of 90's grunge. It's a bit faster than Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun", but it delivers more or less the same punch. It's gritty, introspective, and quite high as a kite. I would not be surprised if this track became an anthem for future drinking (and other similar) sessions. There's nothing like being in the mountains with friends, beer in hand, with this track blaring on the stereo. Ahhh..... For all you corporate zombies out there, this track is a good reminder to take a break every now and then.

This guy.
Rock aside, Reyes dabbles with electronica in "Lover's Fire", a delectable amalgamation of soul and trip-hop music layered with hushed vocals. I welcomed the departure from rock with open arms. This guy. What can't he do? Unfortunately, this track highlights the production woes of this album, particularly how muffled and poor-sounding the drums are in the other tracks - particularly the snare drum. It's such a shame the digitally programmed drum track in this song sounds more organic than the actual drums used by Mendoza on this album.

"Blame" is apparently one of Reyes' older songs with his then-band The Frank in their Drink, Drama, Dream LP. Likewise, "Muse" is a re-hash of an old song by a now-defunct Cebuano band called Capsule. I'm not really sure how Reyes fits into the picture - maybe he helped write this song, or maybe he loved this song so much he had to cover it. Which brings me to a realization - some tracks on this album were probably written way before production began. And it's probably not just those two. Who knows? I'm not complaining by the way. If I had a huge back catalog before I hit it big, I'd slowly release it one song after another. That will keep the record label busy and leave me free to write new songs without ever being pressured by deadlines. That's the way to go.

Anyway, getting into the technical side of things for a bit, what this album clearly does better than the debut is the guitar sound. The latter had one of the most constipated-sounding, beefy, stacked-pork-chops-meaty guitar mixes I've heard from any band in recent memory, and thankfully it's gone in Soul Adventurer, replaced by a much leaner and cleaner sound. With the kind of material Reyes is writing, I've always thought three guitarists was redundant, and pretty much overkill, in my opinion. So I'm really glad it's back down to two.


Overall a bit more down-tempo and cleaner than the debut album, and apart from the somewhat muffled sound of the snare drum and that little DnB annoyance in "To Survive", this album is quite easily another solid outing by Franco Reyes. If any of you people are looking to hear some solid rock tunes, and I mean rock songs that actually rock, then it's impossible to go wrong with this guy. Go grab this album. Now.

9 out of 10

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Mayfield Four - Second Skin (2001) Album Review

Cutting to the chase - this is one of the best rock albums I've heard in a long time. Just to be nitpicky, I'd say the music is "post-grunge", with a very strong 90s vibe to it, particularly reminiscent of old Stone Temple Pilots, with a singer that sounds a bit like Chris Cornell, though he doesn't use his nasal cavity as much as Chris does, therefore better.

I'm talking about Myles Kennedy. Yep, that's a name you've probably heard before. Singer-extraordinaire of Alter Bridge. You know, that band with the ex-Creed members. (Correction: ex-ex-Creed members.) "Blackbird" was actually the first album that got me hooked with Alter Bridge, and after realizing how much of a good singer Myles is, I decided to check out some of his old stuff since most people seem to talk about it a lot. So here we are.

This wasn't the first M4 album I've heard. Heard "The Fallout" first, and while it had its merits, particularly Myles' heavily-influenced Jeff Buckley singing, it wasn't until I heard "Second Skin" before I was compelled to dig up this blog and hastily write something about them.

The Mayfield Four
This album is surprisingly accessible, for a band that struggled to break into the mainstream during the turn of the millenium. I love the musicianship found here, and as a sort of a musician myself, you could tell after listening to a few songs that it came easy for them. The chemistry is undeniable, and all tracks blend in perfectly with each other. You'd be surprised you couldn't find one filler or out-of-place song anywhere. It's absolutely a gem from start to finish. It flows perfectly, barely changing gears or pace, just a constant assault of good old (post) grungy rock, until it slows down to climax into the magnificent end track "Summergirl" - a song that perfectly demonstrates just how high Myles' voice can soar.

It's sad to hear they've already broken up. I actually "sort of" prefer M4 over AB. And this album over AB's "Blackbird". Wait... I take that back. It's a hard choice. Blackbird is a bit beefier and much more deliberate, while Second Skin had musicians that I felt were a bit more relaxed and musically in-tune with each other, churning out a much more effortless piece of music. And it shows.

- post-grunge at its finest

- none (besides the band broke up).

10 out of 10

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kaskade - Fire and Ice (2011) Album Review

Kaskade belongs to the masses now. Coming a long way from being a deep house impresario to a big beats producer, one can't be certain if what we hear in "Fire" is his way of signaling the crowd that he has completely abandoned his deep house roots. Or, on second thought, he may just be flexing his arena muscle - wondering how fast he could fill the dance floor and make ravers lose their minds to ear-piercing synths, jaw-dropping thick bass kicks (probably taking pointers from Deadmau5), and an endless stream of build-ups that eventually explode into a mass of syncopated synths and bass. Fire. And it burns.

Ah... what do we have here? "Ice"? So this is where he keeps his left-overs. Kidding aside, this mix explains a lot - the alienation generated from "Fire", for one. It's a friendly nudge that he hasn't really left his roots, he's actually just experimenting with the extremes of his new-found musical range, from all-out dance to lounge-like easy listening. For the latter, he decided to cram a soulful take on "Fire" in disc number 2 which kind of feels like The Calm: Part 2. At this point, you have to wonder why the album isn't called "Ice and Fire". Nuh-uh. Booty-shaking is top priority for Mr. Raddon apparently - and quite obviously so. As I said, Kaskade belongs to the masses now.

"Ice" also gives him an excuse to go insane in "Fire", purposely making the former more chill than your usual Kaskade deep house track to excuse the excesses of the latter. For as long as anyone has listened to Kaskade, we've never seen him create music this excessive- the synths particularly. An artist trying to transition whilst saving face? Who knows. For all we know this might be his way of bidding a final goodbye to deep house- but we'll just have to wait and see won't we?

- Dance, dance my child, dance!
- "Ice" caters to those wishing to just chill-out

- "Fire" can get too loud with ear-splitting synths (best left at the dance floor)

7 out of 10

PS: Can any of you distinguish Becky Jean Williams' voice from Mindy Gledhill's? Uncanny.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Miguel Migs - Outside The Skyline (2011) Album Review

Let me just cut to the chase: This record is great. If you're a fan of soul and wouldn't mind a twist of electronica in the mix, this album will do well for your ears.

Most of you probably haven't heard of Miguel Migs before. This guy was a fixture in the Hed Kandi series way back in the early 00's, and I've followed his work ever since I heard "Do It For You", and not long afterwards "Brand New Day". I just knew right there and then that this guy was special. He was one of the frontrunners of the emergence of deep house (if there was any) back in the day along with Kaskade/Late Night Alumni, Andy Caldwell, Blue Six, Aquanote, Ananda Project - guys that helped spawn the deep house craze and launched the Beach House series (among others) of the Hed Kandi label into the stratosphere. And while these other acts have disappeared or moved on to more synth-y house music, it's quite good to see Miguel Migs stand his ground and keep deep house alive. And deep house it is. It's his bread and butter.

His previous album, "Those Things" was pretty upbeat, and while it had his trademark grooves and basslines, I feared he was going the same route as Kaskade, a DJ who has since shed his deep house roots for a more synthetic sound. But after hearing the more chilled and relaxed "Outside The Skyline", I knew this guy knew his place. He knows his strengths and plays them. And he plays them well.

As a producer, he is unparalleled when it comes to bass grooves. The way he uses the bass to bring life to his songs is nothing short of genius. It's so full of texture, depth, and soul, and I can't help but feel a sense of joy as I hear it squirm and shift to the rhythmic tendencies of the body. You should know that most other DJ's simply pound the bass out of their mixes without second thoughts, but you could tell Miguel Migs spends a great deal of time, care, and thought creating and tweaking it to perfectly mesh into the mix without losing soul as well as "oomph". The only blemish in this album is the presence of afro-jamaican inspired tracks that throws the mood off a bit - something that's become a habit of Migs when formulating his tracklists for albums (also present in "Those Things").

Nonetheless, "Outside The Skyline" is a record so soulful, chill, and boasts the best bass work of any deep house production in recent memory. This record is as 'deep' as deep house can get. Definitely the new benchmark for any deep house records coming out in the near future and for many years to come.

- Rich bass grooves guaranteed to keep your head a-noddin.
- The best deep house offering in recent memory

- Some Afro-Jamaican inspired tracks feel out of place

9 out of 10

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tesseract - One (2011) Album Review

First of all, the hell is this new prog-metal sub-genre they are calling "djent"? It just sounds rather silly and by the ring of it, it seems it's headed for utter ridicule- like "grunge" or "nu-metal" did. I haven't really warmed up to its namesake, but apparently this was coined by Meshuggah guitarist Fredrik Thordendal to describe the sound of the guitar featured in most Meshuggah songs. That aside, I still think it's a pretty silly name. It's like naming your kid "Bozo" and sending him to school, wondering how he will fare with bullies.

I love Meshuggah. Make no mistake about it. And I've been weaving through Meshuggah-inspired bands since. It seems my craving for heavy polyrhythms and odd time signatures is insatiable... sifting through Youtube videos, checking out live performances, searching for that "band" that would become my focal point in all this "djent" madness.


I admit, I wasn't that impressed after first seeing their music video for "Concealing Fate Part 2 - Deception". Thought it was too generic, and themselves looking like the generic 'band-trying-to-look-cool' on camera. The recording also sounded too "light" for my tastes that I didn't even bother finishing it. I was previously listening to Periphery at the time, and noting the relentless sonic assault prevalent in that band's self-titled album (the instrumental version), I considered Tesseract tame. But let me say this now, and consider this my apology for being such an inconsiderable cynical prick: Periphery has nothing on Tesseract.* Tesseract is simply... phenomenal- for lack of a better word. Well, yeah, in fact I think that word fits perfectly.

This is the first band in a very long time that I can't seem to find any flaws. I mean, sure, these guys are probably not perfect, but what their peers are doing wrong (or are struggling to do right), these guys are just doing it down pat- perfectly. For one, this is the first band in the "djent" scene that actually makes good use of its vocalist. While others still seem to be stuck with the emo/screamo hangover from years past - rendering their vocalists unbearably annoying, Tesseract, on the other hand, has it down with atmospheric vocals, with the occasional screams sprinkled in small doses here and there, not going overboard. And there you have it- the first band, in my opinion, that has perfectly executed its vision of vocals in the midst of heavy polyrhythms. A first! (as far as I know). The fragile-aggressive vocal stylings blends perfectly with the heavy instrumentation which makes this band's sound stand out among its peers- in a genre that can sometimes become too mathematical.

The instrumentation is a given, as is expected of any band that dare ventures into these Meshuggah-laden territories. You just have to be that talented to ever be considered 'peers' with the rest of the bands that grace this branch of metal. It's quite clear this band spends an ENORMOUS amount of time honing their skills, memorizing song segments, improving their technique... everything that goes with it. I can't say the opposite for other bands in the genre since they're equally as skilled in timekeeping and technique. But ultimately, this whole movement is the apex for any band wanting to play at the highest level as a unit. I mean, yes, there are individual prodigies in the music world, but it's unmistakably much more impressive to see 4 to 5 equally talented dudes playing at the same time to create incredibly complicated and beautiful rock songs. It's just really impressive, and I'm pretty excited where this whole 'djent' movement takes us.

As for Tesseract, I just consider them the cream of the crop.


Concealing Fate Part 3 - The Impossible:

*There's really this confusing thing about Periphery. On the one hand, we got the insanely impressive instrumental record- on the other, we got the actual release with that horrible vocalist. I absolutely HATE it that they decided to get a vocalist like that. It just takes so much away from the music. And for the record, Periphery is more ambitious, adventurous, and overall better instrumentally than Tesseract.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Incubus - If Not Now, When? (2011) Album Review

Album cover.
So the new album leaked. Great news for rabid fans, but unfortunately sad, sad news for the band. If Not Now, When? is still set for a July 12th release, a mighty long-ass time away, which makes the album 3 months premature. I imagine they would have done a couple more things in preparation for the release in July, perhaps a second single, the unveiling of the album cover, but this just screws everything up. (Update: the album has since been released at this point)

Anyway, I'm kind of torn up with the new record. On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the album. On the other, I'm confused about what exactly this band wants to be. The album is sunny. It's poppy. It's pleasant. It's minimalist. It's dreamy. I was able to conjure up all sorts of vivid imagery in my head whilst listening to it. And most importantly, I feel a sense of honesty emanating from the music. That's what I got from my first listen, and if that's not why I listen to music in the first place, I don't know why I bother listening. This is all quite premature really, so let me say that I'm reluctant about writing all these praises as I go about this review. I could very well regret this in the coming weeks, but what the hey - I'll just hit myself in the head in another post for being such an impressionable fool.

As for the band, Brandon's singing is much more relaxed here, and in effect - less annoying. Glad to see him using the lower register of his voice more frequently in the album. Also the rhythm section sounds more focused and fused in this one, with barely any instrument rising above the others. Mike's minimalistic use of the guitar is splendid. Ben, who's the most technically proficient in the group, is good as always. It's good Jose ditched the high treble sound of his drums. But the biggest props go to Mr. Kilmore, the once-upon-a-time Incubus DJ who has grown to become a pretty proficient keyboardist.

If you have been following this band like I have, you'd know its most scathing critics are its own fans. The general sentiment is that Incubus used to rock. The "we need another SCIENCE" crowd, hopeful that each news of an upcoming album will bring back the days of dreadlocks and baggy pants. Sad to say, this fan demographic has been consistently let down with each release after S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (I feel like an idiot putting all those dots just to preserve canon). There's also a certain number of fans for each release, and they always get upset with succeeding albums. Everytime. But the band doesn't seem to care.

L-R: Ben Kenney, Jose Pasillas II, Chris Kilmore, Mike Einziger, Brandon Boyd. Photo taken from
This album isn't any different. In fact, the 'alienation' this band seems to be really good at is even worse here. They've completely lost their identity in this album. Some probably won't mind it, but no doubt most fans will definitely be frowning this tremendous shift in sound. The band may have written good songs, and its longevity remains to be seen if people won't get sick of the album in the coming weeks, but yes --- whatever made Incubus uniquely Incubus is nowhere to be found here. This literally sounds like a different band. To me it feels like they're still battling with their own identity as a band after all these years, from their shift from funk to nu-metal to alternative, etc. Most bands would have settled, but this band doesn't seem to run out of gas. Whether it's a good or bad thing, I have a strong feeling they've become a band grown accustomed to self-loathing, eventually finding whatever reasons to hate their own work after a short span of time - hence the famous "we hate making the same record twice" comments from the band members. I'm not really sure of those allegations to be honest - the masochism and whatnot. Perhaps it is just artistry at work and the need for artists to have some leeway or 'wiggle room', but in this band's case, the room is a freaking gymnasium. Seriously, I think this band needs some kind of consistency, at least for the sake of keeping their remaining fan base in familiar territory. They need to sit still for a couple of records lest they want their fans' heads spun out in utter confusion.

Overall, and regardless how this conflicts this band's background, I think it's a good Incubus album. And if you want to enjoy it, listen to it for what it is, not what you think this band is. (And listen to it with a decent pair of earphones.)


Adolescents Music Video:

PS: I want to be the first person to pick up an acoustic guitar and cover Defiance. Seriously.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Deftones Diamond Eyes Tour Live in Manila 02.12.2011 - REVIEW/RECAP + SETLIST

The Deftones. Photo by Derek Santa Ana.
To be honest, I came to the concert expecting the 'usual' subpar performance from the Deftones- particularly from Chino, who's known to not hit the right notes at times. But despite that, the band has greatly improved their playing in the past year or so, rejuvenated by the joining of Sergio Vega on bass, filling in for ailing Chi Cheng. Still, I was skeptical. I even thought one of the front acts, Urbandub, would outshine them. Some sound engineering technicalities* would deem that impossible, of course, but Urbandub is particularly famous (locally) and known for their consistency in their live performances. All this wishy-washy nonsense would vanish at the end of the show, when Deftones exceeded all expectations.

We got to the venue early. A couple of people were already lining up, but we decided to forego the grueling wait in the lines and, instead, grabbed a few beers from a bar across the street. Got a bit tipsy with that last shot of tequilla and went back to the lines. Pumped. Gates were already open.

There were two front acts: Slapshock and Urbandub. Slapshock went first. So-so performance. They performed some of their 'new' tracks that I'm guessing nobody had ever heard before (or cared about). They weren't bad live, to be honest, clad in complete Dickies attire and so forth, but people like myself were expecting them to play some of their more popular tracks (like the idiotic "Agent Orange" perhaps) at least to get some kind of reaction from the crowd. But, oh well, they opted for their newer songs that seem to hint at metal-posturing. The end of each song was greeted with little to no (un)enthusiastic claps from the audience. I clapped my hands by the way, just to be courteous. Three songs later, and they were gone. Here's to hoping the dull audience reaction was not enough to separate them from their iron-clad Dickies sponsorship whatsoever.

Urbandub goes on stage. Things went smoothly despite a minor technical screw-up at the beginning of their set that prompted them to stop. One can feel the presence of Urbandub fans about, singing to their songs, jumping and screaming and so forth. Not everyone was having the time of their lives during Urbandub's set, I can tell. Some folks were just standing there staring at them as if by doing so the band would walk off stage. Still, the crowd's reaction was still significantly better than Slapshock's. They promised they would only play three songs, but just as the drummer hit the last cymbal, a Deftones roadie came out and signaled them to play two more songs. At this point, everyone thought they were still having dinner or something. Stef is particularly a moderately chubby guy, so it's probably expected he'd be glued to the buffet table for at least 30 minutes. Apart from him, Deftones roadies are HUGE. And OLD. Like in their late 40s and 50s. They'd do well as members of some bad-ass biker gang. Joking aside**, Urbandub plays two more songs, and it's over.

Finally, the moment everyone has been waiting for arrives. Wait- make that a few more minutes- as the lumbering caucasian "bikermen" of the Deftones make their way to the stage, taking their time walking back and forth, moving equipment and other stuff. One particular roadie came out with a black box and mounted it at the very helm of the stage. It took him about 15 minutes to glue the box to the floor with masking tape, which was astonishing (both the time and technique employed in doing so). Anyway, blablablah. Crowd chattering and slowly growing impatient. Thirty minutes pass and the lights go out. Crowd goes wild. Stef comes out and takes a picture of the crowd. The rest of the band follows soon after. Abe, Frank, and Sergio. But the crowd literally goes nuts when Chino enters the stage. He makes his way to the said black box and stands on it. Ah, so that's what it's for. A pseudo-throne for Mr. Moreno. Still, the guy is pretty good-looking, and guys and gals alike were screaming his name. I think I was one of them. I can't remember.

Chino Moreno. Photo by Erwin Ngo
They immediately began with "Birthmark" and I found myself trapped in a moshpit almost instantly. "Crap" was my only thought. I swear I felt I was going to be trampled or something because the moshing was incredibly violent. Song # 2 was Engine No. 9, and the moshing didn't get any better (and by 'better' I mean 'slow down'). That's when I realized I had lost my phone. All my contacts down the drain in a second! I don't know if it was from all the moshing, or if pickpockets were in our midst, pretending to be jolly moshers, elbows raised. The fuckers. Screw them all! Almost ruined the show for me. But regardless, the energy was just INSANE. You'd think a guy who'd just lost a cellphone would sulk in the corner. Not me. I was out there screaming my guts out.

Deftones performing "Sextape" in Manila 2011
Band performance was phenomenal- much much better than I previously expected. I didn't quite expect they'd sound this good live. It completely and utterly blew my previous preconceptions out of the water. The band was just in the zone that night. Stef, Sergio, Abe, and Frank. All of them. Chino, in particular, was on point the whole time, which was weird for a vocalist like him who's always struggled to reach those high notes in the past. He did skip some screams - particularly the ones in "Lhabia". But everyone was willing to give him a break. We needed to lay off from the moshing from time to time anyway. And it was getting hot. The venue's ventilation provided for some much needed oxygen, but there's nothing like being sprayed with Chino's mineral water. Ahh... So soothing. Made all the people in the front, including myself, realize how thirsty we were.

All in all, the band played a good mix of songs from all of their albums:
  1. Birthmark
  2. Engine No. 9
  3. Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
  4. My Own Summer (Shove It)
  5. Lhabia
  6. Around The Fur
  7. Digital Bath
  8. Knife Party
  9. Hexagram
  10. Minerva
  11. Bloody Cape
  12. Diamond Eyes
  14. Royal
  15. Sextape
  16. Rocket Skates
  17. You’ve Seen the Butcher
  18. Beauty School
  19. Hole in the Earth
  20. Kimdracula
  21. Back to School (Mini Maggit)***
  22. Change (In the House of Flies)
  23. Passenger
  1. Root
  2. 7 Words
That's 25 songs- one song more than the set they played in Tokyo and Jakarta. Band was feeling good that night, and so did the rest of us. Show ended at almost 12 midnight, with our heads down from all the stuff we had lost amidst the chaos**** but hearts, ribs, and necks content to the brim. Definitely a concert I will remember for the rest of my life.

Best part of the night:
Chino stands on the railings @ the VIP section, grabs a fan's cap and wears it for a couple of minutes whilst singing. He then takes off the cap and tries to give it back to its owner, but another guy from the back was able to grab the cap. Chino then stops singing, calls out the dude who grabbed the cap and threatens to hit him if he doesn't give the cap back. Dude gives the cap back to Chino and Chino gives it back to its rightful owner. Chino then gives the owner a high-five.

Check out Chino's shout-out to the Manila crowd here. To quote:
Noisecreep: What was it like to play shows in places like Jakarta?

Chino Moreno: I was just amazed that we have a fanbase out there. One of the most awesome shows we played in a while was in Manila. It was insane. The crowd was massive and the energy level was wild. It was one of the biggest shows we'd played in a long time and we had never been there before. So the excitement level was high and the show was great. Basically, all the Southeast Asia shows were good and we were like, 'Man, why haven't we been here before?'

* Noticably less volume for the front acts
** The truth is, or so I've heard, the Deftones liked Urbandub's set, letting them play 2-3 more songs
*** Not played in Tokyo and Jakarta
**** In addition to my cellphone, my younger brother's friends lost an iPod, wristwatch, and a wallet. Lesson? Don't bring anything to a Deftones gig.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Cardigans - First Band On The Moon (1996) Album Review

I've always had a fascination for the smash hit "Lovefool". I didn't quite comprehend how big the song was, being just a kid when it came out. But it was HUGE. It topped charts across the world including Billboard, and was featured in several Hollywood movies- most notably Baz Lhurmann's Romeo + Juliet. But time has passed, and the lesser I hear the song, the more obscure the band got for me. In those rare occasions when it does go on the radio I'm like "Which band was this again? This isn't The Cranberries, but I'm damn sure it starts with a 'C'!" - which is weird because I kept remembering The Cranberries (which I still find obnoxious), but always seem to forget The Cardigans. But anyway, the last Lovefool "serving" I got sent me searching for this Cardigans album, and so goes the rest of my story.

The Cardigans
This Danish-Swedish band, as far as I can tell, are masters of the retro sound. But don't let the sunny, sugary exterior of this album fool you. Closer examination of the lyrics reveal much much darker themes, mostly about a woman who readily and willfully accepts abuse from a partner who couldn't care less. Whether Nina Persson, the band's vocalist, was subjected to the same kind of relationship during the writing of these songs remains up for question. The low esteem and self-deprecating nature of the lyrics, although sad, is ironically amusing at the same time. "Oh, I think you're standing on my left foot. It's hurting but it's okay cos I'm in your way." The same stories of abuse and sado-masochism aren't exactly a rarity since I do happen to know a couple of women who are willing to take an emotional beating just to save their relationships. Seriously, ladies. Enough with that stuff! Man the f*** up!

Reality aside, this album presents these dark themes into a carefully woven piece of sunshine that is sure to delight and bring some smiles and disgust from its listeners. The rhythm section is among the best when it comes to the indie/retro sound, not to mention the cute vocals - which seemingly buries the underlying themes beneath the ground. That would of course explain why a lot of people who lived through the 90s often misunderstood this band as just another schmaltzy pop act (and that includes me). Definitely something worth remembering and worth recommending to coming generations.

My score:
8 out of 10

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arkarna - Fresh Meat (1997) Album Review

Fresh Meat album cover.
I remember being extremely disappointed when this record came out. And it was in the cusp of the late 90's post-grunge alternative rock era. The group was dubiously marketed as an electronic-tinged alternative rock band on MTV and I sought the record out in record stores expecting just that. Much to my disappointment.

"This isn't rock... This is freaking DISCO!" were my first thoughts upon hearing "House On Fire"- the first track. And what was left of my alt-rock illusions of the singles "Eat Me" and "So Little Time" quickly vanished- seeing them, for the first time, as electronic tracks with distorted guitars instead of rock tracks with a bit of electronics. The ensuing disillusion completely turned me off and the album was shelved. Goes to prove I really hated electronica back in the day.

A still from the "So Little Time" music video
I don't know what it is about age, but it was only recently that I was able to digest electronica without feeling nauseated. I began listening to deep-house, which to this day remains one of my go-to pleasures. Then I remembered this album. I still have the cassette, but I threw out my cassette player a long time ago. I was lucky enough to get this in digital form though. Trust me, this record is hard to find these days. Finding the band's 2nd album "The Family Album" is even worse. I believe it's extinct (internet-wise). (If you happen to have it, please send me a link). *EDIT* Found it. :)

Anyway, yes, I remembered this album and I finally gave it a proper listen. If you hate electronica, then this album might not be for you. Tracks I would recommend are obviously the hit singles "So Little Time", "Eat Me", and the less popular "House On Fire" and "Future(s) Overrated". "Block Capital" and "Born Yesterday Part1" are also worth mentioning (with the latter as my personal favorite). These songs are chock-full of moments - pretty much the same type of thing I talk about in other songs by other artists. I'm obsessed with these so-called "moments" and I'm equally obsessed with bands who frequently shell them out. I'd get into the details, but I'm afraid I'll only paint an inaccurate picture inside your head. It's best to just listen to the album. That is, again, if you can dig electronica.

My score:
8 out of 10

PS: Don't miss the hidden track- an acoustic version of "House On Fire" right at the end of "R U Ready".

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Regina Spektor - Soviet Kitsch (2004) Album Review

I like Regina Spektor. Her voice blushes with versatility, and she has her own outlandish way of utilizing it. But regardless, she knows how to use it, no doubt about that. She plays a mean piano, and to top it all off, she's just utterly cute. Proof of cuteness come in little pieces. Her quirky live performance is a given, but let's dig a bit more. Say, a video footage from one of her concerts where she messes up Fidelity halfway through. But before that happens, everyone was singing along and having the time of their lives while she was playing the piano and singing to her heart's content. Then she stops singing, quickly fixates her eyes on the keyboard and realizes she has forgotten the notes. She tries to find the correct keys in a panic - like a little kid who desperately scours for a lost toy in the midst of bedroom clutter - but utterly fails, ultimately ruining the song. Everyone starts to laugh and she starts to laugh as well. Ashamed, she continues trying to find the right keys, but then decides to just finish the part by singing a-capella, now with the whole room singing with her. Ecstatic applause follows. Really, you just have to see it for yourself. Now, I don't know if this is just vendored naivete trying to win audiences over with oozing cuteness, but let's leave that particular train of thought to the "professionals".

Ts-tss-ts-ts-tss... stoyle.
What's this all got to do with this album - you might ask. Well, I am talking about her because listening to Regina Spektor really isn't just about the music. More importantly, it's about her. When you listen to her records for a bit, and when you get to know her a bit (her public persona, that is), you begin to adapt a habit of thinking of this sweet, coy, honest, humble, talented artist behind that peculiar wall of sound. In some cases, you'll probably forgive the excessive peculiarity only because it is she who's singing. I can't exactly pin-point which version of my "Spektor-liking" self is listening when her stuff is playing. But damn, she sure is a delight.

I don't think I've ever heard a voice with this much personality before. It's as if you can see the fibers of her being in all its eccentricities. And perhaps you'll find it less and less spontaneous with each listen (most notably Carbon Monoxide's "walk-a walk-a walk-a" gimmick), but there's actually another barrier to break, one with no vocal surprises but with profundity, or perhaps vagueness masked in profundity, whichever floats your boat. But it's evident that she's a gifted writer and poet.

In Ode To Divorce, she pictures being stuck inside her ex-boyfriend's mouth who engages in a passionate "killer" lip-locking with his new girlfriend, but then proceeds to do something as unflattering as begging for money right afterwards. Way to throw everyone off the mood, Spektor. But clever, I must say you... I can say the same for Chemo Limo, which espouses dying in style, hence the limo, rather than try grueling chemo for chances of a cure. Having "crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin" synonymous to money is also a nice touch. Most of the poetry is subjective and open to individual perception, but not overly vague for everyone to develop a deep liking for all things "Spektor". Just have the patience to keep an eye out for it, lest you end up with another female with a fancy way of singing about nothing.

My score:
7 out of 10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Deftones Pacific Rim Dates

photo from
The Deftones happen to be one of the few surviving bands from the nu-metal era (late 90's to early 2000's) that I like. And I just found out that they will be visiting Manila on February 12th next year. Given that they've recently released a well-received record in Diamond Eyes earlier this year, one can imagine the excitement of fans in the region. I'm pretty excited about it as well.

This will be their first time around these parts (I think) and god knows when they'll be back, so I might as well hop on this rare opportunity. They're not particularly the first band I'd go see for a really tight live performance, but judging from recent videos on Youtube, they're improving. Not perfect, but it'll do. Plus, I've always wondered what a Deftones concert would be like in real life.

Tickets will go on sale December 1, according to their website.

Other dates:

Feb 12 - Manila, PHI - World Trade Centre (on-sale Dec 1)
Feb 15 - Bangkok, THA - Thunderdome (on-sale Nov 27)
Feb 16 - Singapore, SIN - Indoor Stadium (on-sale Dec 1)

Visit their website for more info.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

José González - In Our Nature (2007) Album Review

I was recommended to José González' In Our Nature no earlier than 2008, but I only got to listening to him quite recently. A long time coming, thanks to our not-so-harmonious first meeting. At the time of introduction, I thought the album was pretty lo-fi, and I've always been somewhat prejudiced to all things lo-fi. However, I did like it to a certain degree despite the "static hum" sonically plastered with the songs throughout the album, but I grew distracted with other music, other things shinier, other things more polished, and ultimately, things I probably didn't care enough to remember. I did set the record aside ever-so-gently (and by that I mean letting it get lost in my cluttered MP3 folder as opposed to being sent to the recycle bin) and off I went to greener pastures. That hiatus would end a few months ago, as I dug this record out. I've been listening since.

As an acoustic artist, he reminds me of Nick Drake - but not as gentle nor as pleasant. José González' music has this certain abrasiveness and rawness to it, and it gives the record its core appeal - nay - his greatest and most defining appeal, in fact. And I can imagine the luck of those dreamers and film-makers who happen to stumble upon his "dimension" of music and use it to amplify their own thoughts and imaginations. There's just an endless stream of profound imagery to be had - one seemingly inherent to great melodramatic motion pictures. The music just oozes with that 'it' factor - whether for film or dreams.

José González
I actually see José González as some kind of disciplinarian here. The songs are about human nature - in all its meanderings and irrationalities (hence the album title), and it scolds you for being so damn... uh... "human". Ironically, he doesn't sound like some douchebag when he does it. It's cleverly veiled with the gentle plucks of the acoustic guitar, and the strangely "prophetic" sound of his voice. The whole ensemble is pretty effective and I can't help but take heed.

In How Low, he sings about selfishness and how someday "you'll end up to your knees in the shit you seed". That's an album opener for you. In Killing For Love, he proclaims "what's the point of a love that makes you hate and kill for?". Kind of reminds you of some religious sect doesn't it? And in Cycling Trivialities, he talks time and how much of it people waste on petty stuff on a day to day basis - stuff that probably won't matter in a couple of years. Like he says, it's in our nature. But nonetheless, the song proclaims a resounding "reassess! reassess! reassess!", an implorement for one's desire for self-improvement - as has always been for people who are motivated enough to be better than their current selves, even if it only exists in their minds. Also check out his cover of Teardrop by Massive Attack, quite magnificent, I must say.

This is an album you will want to continually play over and over again, if you give it a chance and if you're not previously being too rigid like I was. As of today, I can't count the times my iPod reverted back to the intro riff of How Low without feeling I've had enough.

My score:
8 out of 10

Other stuff:
Down The Line Music Video

Thursday, November 11, 2010

5 Reasons Why Black/Death Metal Sucks

The thing that is pretentious, and subsequently a turn off, about black/death metal is that it's not really just about the music. First and foremost, it's a scene. This list was painstakingly borne out of a friendly discussion on an internet forum, and is somewhat a compact, visual version of the case that I was trying to push:

1. Hairdo Prerequisites

0% "blackmetal coolness"
The famous "Metallica has lost 'it' the moment
they cut their hair" internet forum blabbery.

60% "blackmetal coolness"
Bowling-ball-shiny bald: 40% + 20% for the magnificent goatee
(forget this is Jens Kidman for the sake of this list)

100% COOLNESS!!!
(+++Bonus points for inverted crucifix)

2. Overly Dramatic Band Logos


OMG, super kewl for my t-shirt!!!

Wait, what band is this again?

3. Shock Value Overuse

Demons - check. Inverted star - check. Diabolic pitchfork -  check. People/angels scrambling for their lives - check. Goat head - check (+5 to magic resistance for taking the form of the inverted star). Mock crucifixion of Jesus - check (+10 to energy for uber coolness).

I realize there are probably more 'unnerving' artworks floating around, but this'll do.

4. Lyrics

Limiting much? Apparently, you can only write about isolation, madness, darkness, desperation, suffering, etc. Basically, all things "dark" and the like. If you really want to expand, you can venture into Scandinavian black/death metal lyrical themes if you fancy that. Here's a taste:
We're the guardians of Asgaard! We have faced our enemies a thousand times or even more; still they cannot make us kneel. One thousand years of constant war; the giants look for any chance to bring down Asgaard's mighty walls. No matter what they send at us, we will never let it fall 'cause we are! WE'RE THE GUARDIANS OF ASGAARD!
That's "Guardians of Asgaard" by Amon Amarth.

There's a how-to guide down at WikiHow enumerating the different kinds of black/death metal lyrics if you want to know more.

5. The Worst Kind Of Fans

Black metal fans

Lastly, and most importantly- the fans. You don't want to be lumped with these kids. Not to mention most of them are probably deluded music elitists, angry nerds thinking everything else besides "true" metal (and its variants) is bad music. Sure, there are a few exceptions, but they're the most staunch, bigoted, narrow-minded fans you'll ever meet. The next time you talk about other music in front of these kids, be warned. They'll talk your head off about how metal is better than other genres, and if you'll stick long enough they'll begin yapping about "true" metal and how other bands are phonies and copycats, so on and so forth.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Animals As Leaders (2009) Album Review

Reviewing a metal artist proves to be a headache. First, I'm no metal expert at all. Second, this genre has probably the most strict sub-genre classification on this planet that is carefully guarded by passionate metalhead conservatives who won't blink about calling you out on misuse and "ignorance". You have to be on your toes when you opine about the genres. Third, I can't tell where to start, how to do my supposed 'benchmarking', when to or not to compare bands, etc. The pressure is quite daunting, albeit in my case, imagined. But, yes, it's not as easy as picking a pebble and saying it is better than all the other pebbles in the beach. No, that's not how you should do it. You have to examine the other pebbles- its texture, its color- does it have odd shapes? Is it found in an area with more sand or more neighboring pebbles? Group them according to those characteristics, and after you do, there is absolutely no crossing lines, blabadabada, etc, and other stuff that requires you to be a tight ass.

So, to get away from all that stuff, I will just share my story about how I ended up listening to this band. For me, it started with a craving for more Meshuggah. I've always been fascinated with odd time signatures and polyrhythms, and there are a whole bunch of other bands who have employed various forms of it one way or the other. Meshuggah seems to be at the top of that list. They are just downright obsessed with it, and I find myself scratching my head in disbelief upon hearing sequence after sequence of their music with this obsession in full form - unflinching and relentless - pushing you to the edge until you can no longer follow the beat. And if you could do follow the count/time/beat or whatever, it is extremely satisfying. You can now brag that at a certain moment, your minds were at par! But I fail most of the time. So, yeah, with my jaw still agape, I went in search for other bands who were just as obsessed "playing with time".

Tosin Abasi
In comes Animals As Leaders, an instrumental prog-metal band. Though definitely not as heavy, or as obsessed with polyrhythms, but they do open the door for other activities like guitar wanking and plucking, and more melodic playing. The guitarist himself, a guy named Tosin Abasi, rocks an 8-string guitar and is certainly no pushover. This guy is, by all means, a guitar prodigy. The fact that he wrote and recorded both guitar and bass on the album is astonishing! He has since recruited two other members to tour with.

The use of odd time signatures are minimal, and often unnoticable. But they are there. Some tracks more than others. CAFO, for example, makes abundant use of it- which unsurprisingly ends up being one of my favorite tracks. That guitar intro riff is just orgasmic- all the more when the other instruments melds in to form this really rich heavy metal groove. There are a bunch of relaxed tracks sprinkled throughout too, at times hearkening to Tosin's obvious jazz roots. One track in particular, On Impulse, begins unassumingly with simple guitar plucking- slowly building up until it crescendoes into its true heavy form. If this album has a "landmark" track, On Impulse would be it. I think it best represents the album, appropriately tying its light and heavy moments together.

Light and heavy. Yep. That's where most of my complaints would be. It's a bit disconcerting to have really light tracks (almost undistorted) and extremely heavy tracks in the same album. It confuses me, and I won't be surprised if Tosin is confused either. In the end, the album forms its own uniquely diverse identity, and in effect, making it not an instant go-to for people looking solely for an aggressive fix.

My score:
7 out of 10

Music clips:
On Impulse