Friday, September 27, 2013

A Difficult 2012—Part Three

Part Three of Five…

Graveyard—Lights Out (Nuclear Blast)
 Seeing as Hisingen Blues was one of my top 5 albums of 2011, having Lights Out come out so soon afterwards made me wary. Could Graveyard equal Hisingen's energy and songcraft, or was Hsingen gonna be a one-off? Well, it's clear throughout Lights Out's tight 35 minutes that Graveyard still have the goods. It's not quite the throat-grabbing, gut-socking romp that the previous album was, but in a way it was smart of them to throttle back a tad on Lights Out. The rockers are good, sure, but it's the slower songs that stand out for me. It doesn't take long for the album to take it down either. The second track, "Slow Motion Countdown," is a stunner, with a classic verse/bridge/chorus structure that shows off singer Joakim Nilssen's incredible pipes. My other favourite is "The Suits, the Law and the Uniform," which is almost Australian in its mid-paced barroom rock drive. Lights Out is worthy in every way, and most assuredly establishes Graveyard as the class of the retro rock field.

Steve Moore—Light Echoes (Cuneiform)
Light Echoes is hardcore planetarium music that sucks you into an intense listening experience. As Moore says about the record, "'Songs’ are basically the last thing I want to hear when I see a guy bring a bunch of synthesizers on stage. I want to hear sounds. I want to hear what those synthesizers can do. Which brings us to this new album.” Moore's synths pulse, ripple and soar, overjoyed to play amongst themselves. No guitars or drums—the imprecise tools of savages—crash this party. The tracks are spontaneous and sprawling, yet tidy at their core. The single sequence or arpeggio that underpins each one almost dares you to let your attention drift. Themes develop gradually. Effects are tweaked to send everything waywards, like the warping that occurs during "Light Echoes II" (14:02). Listening to it is like watching footage of crystals form—the shapes reflect the entire light spectrum, and they grow with angular, flawless logic. I found it fascinating. Of everything I heard in 2012, I listened to Light Echoes the most closely.

Neurosis—Honor Found In Decay (Neurot)
Maybe the peaks of Through Silver in Blood and Times of Grace are behind them, but every new Neurosis album must be the subject of serious contemplation, if not celebration. Honor Found In Decay refines the approach they've taken on their last few albums, and provides some harrowingly beautiful passages. Listening to music is a passive experience by definition, but with Neurosis I feel like more of a passenger than with other bands. Songs rarely unfold in expected ways. Even the album as a whole takes a weird dip in the middle before coming back with two powerful tracks. As always, listening to the new Neurosis album is a process of acceptance leading to increasing admiration.

Napalm Death—Utilitarian (Century Media)
I keep expecting Napalm Death to burn themselves out with the relentless pace of their album releases, but Utilitarian finds them raging as hard as ever. It seems like they'll never slow down. While there's not much to distinguish it from their last few albums (except maybe an absence of guest "stars", save John Zorn's excellent spot on "Everyday Pox"), Utilitarian continues their streak of quality grind-infused songwriting. The horror that humans can wreak is pervasive and ever-worsening, so they certainly have no end of stuff they can write about, anyway. There's a couple good fistfuls of excellent tracks, capped by "The Wolf I Feed," which is a rabidly catchy rock 'n' roll song.

UFOmammut—Oro: Opus Primum (Neurot)
Italian doom trio UFOmammut followed up the one-track album EVE (my top album of 2010) by making something even more colossal: two albums following the EVE format, released months apart. This first opus, Opus Primum, unfolded like a doom metal "Echoes," taking almost 8 minutes to hit full volume, then unfolding over five tracks crossfaded for a continuous 51 minutes of music. Its five-note main theme/motif drifts in and out, and maybe they depend on it too much. I felt it became a little grating. As always, amazing (and heavy!) mind-expanding music that can only be faulted by perhaps being too logical a followup to EVE. Note: I would have liked to pair this review with the album's sequel, Oro: Opus Alter, but I haven't heard it yet.