Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Difficult 2013—Part Two

Black Wizard—Young Wisdom (self-released, LP on War on Music)
A deadly distillation of all things hairy, sweaty and rocking, Young Wisdom was so good that we reviewed it twice at Hellbound last year. If it weren’t for the extraordinary debut of a certain other, related band, this would have been the local release of 2013.

Shooting Guns—Brotherhood of the Ram (Pre-Rock)
These Saskatoon proponents of “Pilsner-fuelled mayhem” are flat out one of the coolest bands in Canada. Getting to see them do their thing again at the Cobalt last year was a real treat. I don’t think Brotherhood of the Ram was out at that point, but they did play large chunks of it, I’m pretty sure. Sticking to their instrumental ethic for this six-track riff jamboree is a smart move. Having some guy yell overtop this would only ruin the party. The LP has a distinct vibe on each side, starting with a trio of swirling heavy numbers, each as untamed and expansive as the prairie landscape, then settling down on side two for a couple of more placid tracks (the Shooting Guns sound collides with latter-day Earth to great effect on “Go Blind”) before “No Fans” shuts things down with a final blowout. It’s quite a ride.

Subrosa—More Constant Than the Gods (Profound Lore)
Subrosa are a little bit magical. They’re not a heavy metal band, but damn, they’re heavy. They’re bluesy while avoiding of the obvious scales and structures of the genre. Only loss and longing remain. They’re extremely Gothic, but sure as hell not “goth”. Their violin-laced sludge trudge has a stern beauty, sort of a tar-pit-as-reflecting pool effect. I hear them less as a metal band than the offspring of the heavier strain of ‘90s alt-rock. Imagine if PJ Harvey, post-Rid of Me had bought bigger amps after and got really into Melvins, or if Slint had found that interested female vocalist and, again, got really into Melvins. This is a much louder, more confident album than their previous album. at the same time, it’s more brave in its willingness to whisper-sing its most intimate thoughts.

Boards of Canada—Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp)
I don’t know from IDM or whatever genre Boards of Canada inhabits. Everything sounds like prog to my ears anyway. Tomorrow’s Harvest, to me, is comfort music. It doesn’t try to “rock” and unlike a lot of the music I listen to, it’s not structured to shock the listener. Spooky and meticulously layered, each of the 17 tracks explores its little cluster of sounds for a tantalizingly brief time before moving on to the next track, the next idea. In lesser hands, this type of music tends to drone on for no reason than wanting to use the word “monolithic” in the press release. The discipline here is admirable, and just as there’s nothing very risky or jarring on Tomorrow’s Harvest, it also fit in with my ‘playing it safe’ ethos for 2013.

Kadavar—Abra Kadavar (Nuclear Blast)

Maybe they’re trying a little too hard, these Kadavar freaks, considering the live-off-the-floor recording, the blown-out vocals, the beards and the aged-looking cover photo. They’re like a new pair of pre-faded jeans. But damn, they fit and they feel good and it’s a classic look, right? Their genius is in avoiding being an obvious homage to any specific band. They weld together a bunch of blues and proto-metal styles to create a retro sound of their own, same as I think Graveyard have done. Stylistically, they draw from more sources than Graveyard, though, colouring songs like “Doomsday Machine” and “Dust” with strokes of arena-rock flash. Guitarist/vocalist Lupus Lindemann often sounds a bit like Klaus Meine; maybe that’s what does it. The production is minimal as possible, with a single guitar hard panned left, bass on the right, vocals straight up the middle. Nailing that perfect take must have been a nail-biting process, but the energy and excitement you can hear on Abra Kadavar was well worth it.

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