Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Burning Ghats—Something Other Than Yourself (self-released)

I'd like to think the title is aimed at the oblivious majority—the people who never look up, lost in their handheld pseudo-realities. Burning Ghats are all about confrontation. If they don’t want to destroy the passer-by, they definitely want to give him/her a good wake-up slap. This Vancouver hardcore/metal/grind quartet have pinned me against the back wall many times with their incredible live show. Afterwards, I’m left with thoughts along the lines of “What the hell just hit me?” rather than “hmm, the tempo change in the second song was kind of cool” or other such musical musings. With a 7-inch already to their name, this EP-length 12-inch (mine's on gruesome grey vinyl) has now arrived. The record provokes the same gut reaction that their gigs do, but it's allowed me to appreciate the band on a new, deeper level. The recording is punishing, the songs are cathartic and harrowing. Recorded at The Hive with Jesse Gander and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, they certainly worked with the right people. The ten tracks vary in length and tempo, but not in intensity. The tense, drum-led trudge of “Cold People” sets a forbidding mood before “Hexes” blows it all apart with blasting, double-kicked fury. There’s little time to breathe between the relentless series of tracks that follow. “Grief Ritual” blasts by in 21 seconds. “Carry the Head” shudders and howls with pure horror. “Gold Sores” oozes forth over six minutes, and closes the album with sheets of ominous, macabre sound via guest contributors Night Mother. As a purely indie release, Something Other Than Yourself stands impressively on its own, although fans of Baptists and the rest of Southern Lord’s hardcore roster need to hear this now.

Burning Ghats' record release show is Friday, November 22 at the Astoria in Vancouver.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

A Difficult 2012—Part Four

Part four of five...

Diagonal—The Second Mechanism (Metal Blade/Rise Above)
The Second Mechanism recasts Diagonal as an almost entirely instrumental act that hammers away with the alacrity of Hatfield and the North or some berserk incarnation of Caravan. I loved their first album, but this is a much more confident effort. The five songs are muscular and rhythmically involved, with a bit of jazz that gives Diagonal their own, uh, angle in the old progressive game. Guitar and sax lead the way, often in unison, and the supple, surefooted rhythm section drives the machine along, aided by brilliantly earthy, no-BS recording. Compared to Änglagård, it's rather sparse—more of a live "blow session" than a studio-based audio puzzle. It really does sound like a shit-hot Peel Session. Hats off to whoever engineered this, sure, but the biggest credit must be given to a band that has their material down cold. Man, these guys can play.

Änglagård—Viljans Oga
Änglagård's long-awaited comeback is an onslaught of sophisticated progressive rock. Each of its four tracks is an intense workout, featuring themes that emerge, repeat, then fly apart in a thousand different directions. With guitars, bass, drums, mellotron and flute all intertwined, it's an orgiastic sonic tangle that almost defies easy consumption. Yet the sounds are so natural and inviting that you dive in without question. The only boner killer is the circusy passages in "Langtans Klocka"; otherwise this is dazzling from the start to finish. As someone who craves such music, I'd never complain that it's too much to take in; however, the process of making Viljans Oga evidently took its toll on the band, which started shedding members as the album neared completion.

Janel & Anthony—Where Is Home? (Cuneiform)
I reviewed this elegant and inventive guitar/cello collaboration here. I'm looking forward to hearing what they get up to next.

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell—Don't Hear It...Fear It! (Metal Blade/Rise Above)
ASCS blast us back to 1974 with this burly blast of power trio rock, all flares, bomber jackets and sideburns. Perfect music for bombing up the M1 in one of these. Never mind the image, though—they deliver a well-worn musical style with power, grit, and not a little genius. Imagine Budgie stripped of the pastoral interludes and you've got the Shovell pretty much. Not that they don't have their eccentricities—there's that crazed-looking falcon (?) mascot of theirs and a bunch of songs that even at their most rockin' can still swing and turn down some interesting back alleys. "Devil's Island" and "Red Admiral Black Sunrise" are my kind of rock songs—speeding up, slowing down, getting loose, getting tight, and all built on a deep foundation of riff. And on "Scratchin' and Sniffin'" they've got the working stiff's anthem of the year. Put it on and I'll get the next round in.

Dysrhythmia—Test of Submission (Profound Lore)
This is Dysrhythmia's fiercest outing yet, the trio growing less and less polite as they develop and disperse their genius amongst other projects (Zevious, Krallice, Gorguts, etc.). I may praise a lot of "my" music for its retro authenticity, but there's nothing old-fashioned within Dysrhythmia's particular din. I can't trace anything further back than the early '90s in their approach. There are no solos or anything very groovy. If it resembles good ol' rock music at all, it does so for only a few seconds before lurching into something else. On the other hand, their songs are tight, especially by today's slovenly standards. Strong themes with logical linking passages let you draw a thread through each adrenalized track. I found that seeing them live and witnessing the visceral flair and concentration with which they perform this music is an essential to appreciating Dysrhthmia. They really are one of the finest bands pounding it out on the road today.