Friday, January 27, 2012

Option Paralysis: It's Me Or The Drugs!!!

Despite the title, this is not intended to be a post focusing on gossip. A little while ago I pointed out that Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan (DEP) publicly stated that he had the trip (*wink, wink*) of a lifetime. Read Greg's original statement here.

Metal Insider recently posted an interview with Ben Weinman, guitarist and main creative force behind DEP, in which he touched on various subjects related to Greg's drug episode. Ben maintained that the creative process for DEP has always been drug free (although he mentioned ingesting pots of coffee MULTIPLE times throughout the interview) and that he has always been straight edge. Still, Ben assured everyone that this event was "less than a hiccup" within the internal relationship of the band.

On the Metal Sucks post about this very subject, there was a shit storm of user comments regarding the place that recreational drug use has in the creation of music. I won't get into that
because, obviously, drugs are great and also great for music and musicians.

What I really want to talk about is where does one draw the line between the individual and the collective within the relationship of a band. Ben mentions that Greg is "the front man and [he's] the image of what this band is", but at the same time mentions "certain guys in the band do certain things and certain guys don't". To me, this means that Greg can do what he wants, but he should have a responsibility to maintain a public image that is consistent with DEP's creative work ethic and philosophy. This brings up a number of important questions. Where does one draw the line between the individual and the collective? Where does one draw the line between public responsibility and private freedom?

As being a member of multiple bands in the past (albeit, local bands), I can safely say that every member always develops a "personality" or "role" in the band and that contributes to the function (or dysfunction) of the whole. I think most people can agree that there are one or two people who are the creative engines while the others may contribute some ideas. Additionally, there are usually one or two people that are deemed to represent the "public image" of a band.

The "public image" of a band is generally used to express the philosophy, ideas, and personality of a band by way of interviews, public appearances, and the like. They serve to bridge the perceived gap between the fan and the band. When a member who acts as the "public image" of a band no longer aligns him or herself with the philosophy, ideas, or personality of a band, then there will be some dissonance between those identities. In other words, when a member acts on his or her own volition in a public space, while not maintaining the image of the band, that's when problems within bands occur. That's also usually when members get kicked out.

Ben said in the interview that one main problem he saw with Greg's behavior is that it caused fans to assume that the recreational use of drugs is part of the creative process. Obviously, from Ben's comments, this is not the case (except for COFFEE!). Thus, some dissonance between "public image" and individual personality.

So where does one strike the balance between public image and personal choice and between the collective and the individual? Clearly, each band is going to have different views on this. In many Black Metal bands, shared ideology (whether Satanic or not) is central to the function of the band. For overtly political bands, like Napalm Death, I'm sure this also rings true. Within bands like these, I would imagine each individual has at least some contributions to developing the ethos of a band.

However, it's not just about ideology or philosophy. Aspects such as the band's collective personality and work ethic also play hugely important roles. If one member is an incessant drunken asshole or never shows up for practice, that may not fit in with the overall personality or work ethic of a band, respectively.

I think in most instances, an individual member of a band is allowed to express themselves, creatively, socially, or otherwise, just as long as said expression doesn't violate either the public image, the interrelationships, or the world view of the band. The boundaries of such a violation are, of course, explicitly or implicitly set by the band.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

John's best of 2011

J. Sunlight here! Since all my favorite bands blew their loads in 2010, I didn't bother keeping close tabs on metal releases in 2011, so consider this the socioeconomically aware metalheads's top ten list of albums which exceeded expectations in all the extracurricular while maintaining the artistic verve and quality standards that we've come to expect from the falsely-conscious mutants who populate the metal scene!


1. Old Forest - Tales of the Sussex Weald
Technically some old releases cobbled together and sold to the same people a second time! Good business sense and efficient use of available resources earns Fogarty and crew my personal thumbs up and the award for best album of the year! Old Forest are like Emperor or Immortal or Gehenna or something but English. YOU KNOW...

2. Immolation - Providence
Obviously fishing for wider appeal, Immolation do Noktorn proud create their first release that appeals to non metal-nerds; an ep who's frolicking riffs and de-alienated stratification of oldschool-modern death metal cliches makes something you can enjoy without the niggling feeling that you should be listening to "Onward To Golgotha" instead. Expect this on college radio!

3. Tjolgtjar - Witchcrafts, I Am A Wolf, First Church of Tjolgtjar Volume I (Rites of The First Church)
"Witchcrafts" is an old album just now getting release. Part of an old collaboration which never came together, forcing the Rev to provide his own vocals to his own arrangements! It must be stated that this is not "Ikarikitomidun", nor in the same ballpark. It is in the same league, however! Think of it as the Royals of Tjolgtjar's black'n'roll with the faded color palate and dreary adherence to standard Sabbath influence. "I Am A Wolf" is a compilation and thus irrelevant, save the considerate inclusion of "Elephant" and "Rhinoceros", songs which are to date only available to scumbags who download (granted they are now available in the form of a download). The only mistake is the inclusion of the unlistenable "United States Black Metal Mafia: HellsLegions" rather than one of their best and more obscure tracks "Unholy Offerings". I went ahead and fixed this by replacing the track (I suggest you download it), thus this release is salvaged. "First Church of Tjolgtjaretc" isn't metal. While these are all download releases, by keeping the brand name alive I merit Tjolgtjar a respectable third position this year.

4. Burzum - Fallen
"I should defend myself no matter what, and not give the crusading Jew-lackey carte blanche to murder my race and me only because his blade is so bloody beautiful or because he has been allowed to do so for a thousand years already!" Varg, you charmer! It's not as though I could write this list and ignore Burzum... It's not as though YOU ignored these developments!

5. Glorior Belli - The Great Southern Darkness
While others are content to recycle material, Glorior Belli recycle the very metaphysics of their work and released a stellar sequel to "Meet Us At The Southern Sign" which had put them on the map, with a bit more aesthetic variety, a bit less emotional range, a less typecast arrangement in general and a greater emphasis on the cartoonish nature and oblique humor of it all. The 2 Fast 2 Furious of metal albums if you will.

6. Gigan - Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes
I haven't really listened to this but I'll go ahead and say it's great. Presumably nothing has changed since "Footsteps of Gigan" besides the collapse of global capitalism.

7. Vondur - No Compromise
It's Vondur's music, but available. What I guess we always wanted...




These spots are reserved for, respectively, a German, a French, and an American black metal record which I haven't heard yet.


Beherit - At The Devil's Studio
This is an obvious forgery as to my knowledge, Beherit was not a metal band until 2008. Hats off for the effort, though.

Anything else
Until it has been properly vetted...

There you go! While other people may, in the uncertain, measured way one must in an age where all of our credibility is threatened, tell you that 2011 was a good or bad year for metal for an artistic-musical-cum-sociological-cultural hoedown I can tell you with true certainty that it was a year of true revitalizing self-perpetuation!


As I was compiling my "Top 10 of 2011" list for this blog (read Judge Dredd's here and Cate the Great's here, good stuff!!) I realized that I listened to a TON of terrible metal in order to find a handful of great albums. Yeah yeah, I know that that's part of the fun is digging through all the garbage that comes out every year to find some truly superb masterpieces, but it got me that I'm no longer a Malicious Intent DJ and am not obligated to at least pretend to listen to all the new shit that's coming out, perhaps it's time to backtrack a bit.

Here's what I mean: I can't tell you how many obscure, bedroom black metal demos I've listened to (some of them great fun too, don't get me wrong), but it's pretty embarrassing when I admit to fellow metalheads that I've never actually listened to no-brainer albums like Morbid Angel's Blessed Are the Sick, or that I can't name any classic Motörhead songs other than "Ace of Spades" off the top of my head. Similarly, now that I'm finished with school and have spent a lot of my free time around my apartment here in Sydney reading and playing video games, it dawned on me as I was looking for books to check out at the local library that I've never actually read really anything by H.P. Lovecraft, nor did I know anything about Aleister Crowley, both of whom are extremely important in shaping metal's overall atmosphere, lyrical themes, and imagery.

There are a lot of other examples too, but I'm trying to not turn this into a rant. My point is that because 2012 is arguably the most metal year in the history of mankind (the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, the end of the world or whatever in the Mayan calendar, a potentially grueling American presidential race that is arguably going to decide the fate of the nation, global economic collapse, climate change, the God Particle at our fingertips, the History Channel and Giorgio Tsoukalos freaking out everyone with Ancient Aliens theories, Graham Hancock's compelling evidence in his book Fingerprints of the Gods of the existence of a pre-Ice Age advanced civilization and its relationship to 2012 (check out this interview as well, cool shit!), THIS guy, THIS shit, etc.), I couldn't think of a better soundtrack to the impending trainwreck of mankind's existence than classic metal albums that I've never listened to, great books and writers influential to metal's evolution, and exploring concepts relating to occultism, the paranormal, and other weird shit. So I guess aside from eating healthier and working out and stuff like that, this is going to be THE YEAR of having a blast getting into weird-as-fuck stuff.

Honestly, I don't really think anything's going to happen on December 21, 2012, but I feel like it's still as good as an excuse as any to explore some eccentric writers and solidify the foundation of my metal knowledge by listening out some essential metal albums (and other music I haven't bothered to check out in the past) for the first time!

Do I sound like a maniacal madman?? Is anyone else planning on getting WEIRD with me in 2012??

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cate the Great's Top Ten of 2011

Ok, I know, I suck. What is it, almost February already? Sheesh. My apologies for my poor time management skills, but my blogging has recently been competing with my preparations for an upcoming show (shameless art plug here: Finally, it is time.
Being dead last in the group, many of my top albums from last year have been covered nicely already, but there's a few I feel I can add to the pile. I agree with both Dredd and Wulf's sentiments that 2011 was a strange one for metal. Even up at the last minute bands were being dropped, added, and rearranged on my list, and while there were many great albums this year there were few that I felt were truly masterpieces from beginning to end compared to 2010 and 2009, although I believe I listened to more new music this year than any other. While there were many albums I thought were good, almost none were safe from some sort of scrutiny. I believe I'll just refer to this year as "The Year of the Pretty Album" because there were a lot.
Without further ado:
10. Cruachan: Blood on the Black Robe
To tell you the truth, I never expected Cruachan to make a "best of" list written by my hand. I've always clumped their more recent music into a certain category: another anomaly that when you hear the words "Celt Metal" whatever you imagine in your head is exactly on target - no real surprises. Their previous release, 2006's "The Morrigan's Call" was to me orthodox and a little fun at its best - riddled with pipes and upcycled covers of traditional folk songs. But "Blood on the Black Robe" is different. While the traditional elements and instrumentation remain the somewhat the same, it smashes any notion of predictability. Almost every song is a dogmatic call to arms, rife with the anger felt by a proud ethnic group defending its culture against invading outsiders. Sticks out among many other battle-metal bands as a rawrer, more genuine alternative to Turisas and others. Side effects of this album include a shelighleigh suddenly appearing in your hand and a quick onset of blood lust.
9. Arkona: Slovo
What an album! While I figured Arkona would have a hard time outdoing their last two releases, "Slovo" (meaning "word" in Russian) adds a new flavor to Arkona's recipe. Symphonic elements, sidewalk organ grinder melodies, a few black metal riffs, along with Arkona's staple dancy folk tunes come together to create a rollercoaster of an album. With each new release, Arkona seem to push themselves bit by bit, and I'm excited to see what's next.
8. Wrath and Ruin: Mouth of Oblivion

So I have a local bias, what of it? Actually no, the local love has little to do with it, this album is a true contender. I was on the edge of my seat for months waiting for this album to get finished, and when I finally got my hands on it, it was on repeat for a solid week. With "Mouth of Oblivion" Kansas band Wrath and Ruin create a unique experience of "sci-fi metal" extending well beyond just the lyrical content and into the music itself. Eerie synth paired with an extraordinarily tight rhythm section, sound clips about Area-51 and conspiracy theories, topped off with Godfleshian vocals belting out lyrics about other-worldly lifeforms mesh to create something that appeals to both the metal snob and the geek in all of us. I'd like to note here that my local-love extends further, and that black metallers Stonehaven's demo would have made this list had it not been a demo.
7. Vader: Welcome to the Morbid Reich
"It's Vader, and that's just fine" is the phrase I've been using to justify this albums presence. For twenty years and gobs of releases, the Vader formula has withstood, and this album is no exception.
6. Moonsorrow: Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
I've been abbreviating this album VKKM since this album's release because, even by metal standards, this title is a doozy. According to an MA user the translated title is "As Shadows We Walk in the Land of the Dead." Finnish is weird. Anyway, Moonsorrow is an incredibly talented band, and with this album the folk is elevated to grandiose levels. Four tracks all topping ten minutes, sandwiched between interludes of a traveller walking through snow and grass, narrates a story that surely involves death and transcendence. The sheer beauty that Moonsorrow manages to create with their playing on this album is astonishing, and there is a wonderful sense of mystery and longing to the whole thing.
5. Aosoth: III

I've always had the theory that many metalheads are closeted electronica freaks. I know I am. One of my favorite things is when aged black metal bands incorporating electronica into their music (a la Dødheimsgard, Beherit, etc...) and while Aosoth may not be the oldest BM band, their music reminds me of those great combinations. Like contemporaries Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, Aosoth manage to create a scary atmosphere with their approach to production and delivery - the entire album seems to have been blanketed in subtle white noise, with elongated droning and shifting tones hovering in the background of the chaos, all held together by really catchy guitar work. Another point scored by the French.
4. Burzum: Fallen

In early Spring, as last year’s snow was thawing and only a little bit of green was starting to show on the barren Kansas fields, I embarked on a two day trek to Northern Kansas for a photography
project, capturing abandoned buildings and deserted towns. Everything up there is at least 10 miles apart, so when travelling from one destination to another, I has nothing but barren, grey fields to watch while I sped my rumbling 93' Volvo over hills and across fields. The whole time "Fallen" blared through my headphones, creating the perfect soundtrack. Gorgeous, continual melodies paired with Varg's distant singing accompanied me as I searched for inspiration, and listening to such a album made it easy to see the beauty in the drab. While Burzum is well known for contributions to the world of screaming, lo-fi black metal, the man sure knows how to make a something truly beautiful.

3. Peste Noire: L'Ordue à l'état Pur

I catch myself saying “That’s so French” quite a bit. What does that mean, that something’s French? I think it has to do with identifying art (of all forms) associated with a culture that is responsible for the term "avant-garde," often stereotyped as hyper-sexual, and has been at the forefront of all things arty and experimental for hundreds of years. So things rooted in history, arty, a little crazy, and fucking filthy. That's Peste Noire. In this case, all these descriptors work to create one hell of a "French" album. PN's historical sensibilities and off-color twists are still present, but this album made me do something I never thought I would while listening to a PN album - dance. Sound clips of whippings, techno beats, and Famine's spitting, rageful vocals will make almost any listener feel very unsettled, but yet groovy and aching for more. Who knows the proper way to listen to a Peste Noire album? I imagine it involves a kiddie-pool full of entrails, a burning French flag, and maybe a pig.
2. Haemorrhage: Hospital Carnage
I like goregrind for the same reason I like horror movies - that inner ten year old that loves gore and feckless blood. Call it a response to a life mostly free of danger and horror, but I can't help but crack a smile at a really good grind track. A few notes into this album, and I knew it would make this list, not to mention that the theme of hospital terror is a great one (The Re-animator? Audition? Dead Ringers? All great films). With "Hospital Carnage," Spanish band Haemorrhage continue their sick investigation into medical mayhem, and tracks like "Splatter Nurse" and "Amputation Protocol" will have the listener reeling. I refer to Haemorrhage as the "F- of Grind" for both their gender make-ups, angst-ridden delivery, and distinct call-and-response set up, which all together creates a bloody masterpiece of gg.
1. Altar of Plagues: Mammal
While not an American band, Altar of Plagues' sound fits nicely with the current trend of USBM in the spotlight. It's rather exciting to see such a new musical movement come to fruition before my eyes (despite the perceived dissent of many a purist) and I can't wait to see how far it will go. Call it by whatever name (post-metal/experimental/nature-orientated) but it amounts to groups sculpting the traditional idea of BM into something more concerned with concept rather than shock value. "Mammal" is a highly appropriate name for Altar of Plagues latest, and album which Invisible Oranges reviewer Justin M. Norton wonderfully called "warm-blooded, a deceptive predator." The music on this album is so thick, it does feel alive - an intricate lacing of systems that when charged by the beating of a heart begin to move. The echoes of drawn out-notes and racing beats invite the listener inward, and provides them with an ability to reflect. This could very well be the first album marking the beginning of Altar of Plagues mature works. Compared to their last two releases, with this album song lengths went up and the music became much more concise. Great, great album.
Also worthy of note:

LOVED: Fen - Epoch; Falloch - Where Distant Spirits Remain; Kampfar – Mare; Dalriada - Igeret; Crowbar – Sever the Wicked Hand; Meek is Murder - Algorithms; Amon Amarth - Surtur Rising; Oakhelm-Echtra; Glorier Belli - The Great Southern Darkness; Kroda - Schwarzpfad; Mastodon - The Hunter; Ulver- Wars of the Roses; WITT - Celestial Lineage; Origin - Entity; Woods of Desolation - Torn Beyond Reason; Sylvus - The Beating of Black Wings; Devin Townsend - Deconstruction/Ghost.

NOT LOVED: Korplikaani – Ukon Wacka; Pathology – Awaken to the Suffering; Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus; Jesu - Ascention; Krallice - Diotoma; Blackguard - Firefight; Batillus - Furnace.

HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO YET: Tyr, Primus, Absu, Tsjuder, Insomnium, Anaal Nathrakh, Autopsy, Ulcerate, Primordial.

As usual, I can't wait to see what this following year will bring. New Nile? Burzum? Les Discrets? Drudkh? Can't wait!
Until next time!
-Cate the Great

Friday, January 20, 2012


Well, well, here we are again!! 2011 was a hell of a year, went to Korea, living in Australia now, and, most importantly, enjoyed some killer metal releases during my travels! I really don't have too much to say about 2011 that wasn't already covered by Judge Dredd, he pretty much nailed it with this being the year of USBM really breaking through to the critical acclaim it deserves...however, I still can't help but feel that 2011 was fairly weak compared to 2010. Last year, I had a tough time narrowing down my favorite masterpieces, but this year I found it difficult to come up with ten albums that I found to be truly excellent. Anyway, there are still some gems to be found, and I'll also list some albums I thought were pretty cool but not worthy of the "Top 10". Here we go!!

1. "L'Ordure à l'état Pur" - Peste Noire

What a monster of an album!! I remember really digging this album and the strangeness of it all, but after reading this blog post and using this album as a soundtrack to a game of Plague & Pestilence with some friends, I felt like for me this was definitely going to be my favorite of the year...and I was right! Easily PN's best since their debut album, controversial lyrics and themes aside, this album is absolutely nuts. Bizarre songwriting parodying modern French culture, batshit insane vocals, PN's trademark sloppy playing contrasted with excellent musicianship (and Indria's masterful fretless bass!), it's not for everyone but will definitely appeal to the more adventurous audiophiles out there. As far as black metal goes, Famine is the new Varg.

2. "Celestial Lineage" - Wolves in the Throne Room

While I don't feel as if Wolves are ever going to top 2007's "Two Hunters", there's no doubt that "Celestial Lineage" and is THE BEST USBM album of the year. While it took me awhile to get into this album just because there's so much stuff to explore in these labyrinthine tracks, eventually it really warmed up to me and found it to be a very rewarding listening experience. It's these kinds of albums that make me feel like it was recorded in a cave somewhere, evoking the same essence of primitive rituals long forgotten. It's sad to see that this is going to be their last album, but holy shit what a way to go out!

3. "Fallen" - Burzum

Speaking of which, the new Burzum album was amazing as well! I'm still sad that the interview didn't work out, but while writing up questions I really got into this album and found it to be better than "Belus". Of course you've got all the typical Burzum-style dirty riffing and hypnotic repetition, but also some of the most gorgeous melodies I've heard in black in quite some time. I'm definitely excited to see what else Varg's got in store for us in the near future.

4. "Ghost" - The Devin Townsend Project

Easily my biggest guilty pleasure of the year, I can't believe I enjoyed this album as much as I did. Ugh. I'd be embarrassed to listen to this while in the same room as someone else. Nevertheless, while for most people this might be The Mad Scientist of Metal's weakest of his 4-album quadrilogy, this was my fact, it might be my favorite thing Devin's done since "Terria", which is one my favorite albums of all time. There's no metal on "Ghost"...instead, it's a relaxing, pseudo-new age "journey" of relaxing, lush acoustics and peaceful atmospherics. Vomits.

5. "Roads to Judah" - Deafheaven

Now THIS album came out of nowhere...who are these dudes? While some BM fashion police might be turned off because these guys don't "look" very "metal", they obviously play their brand of post-rock-influenced black metal without giving a shit (while simultaneously not coming across as pretentious...sorry Liturgy). I found that Deafheaven gives me the same vibe I get from bands like Amesoeurs, Nachtmystium, and black metal artists that give off a strong "urban decay" vibe. Rainy, cold afternoon/evening in NYC black metal.

6. "Mammal" - Altar of Plagues

I'm not too sure what to say about this album, other than it's "really good". While it's definitely in the vein of this rapidly-growing trend of "urban decay black metal" that all the kids are listening to these days (including me), I couldn't really get into this album until I listened to it in complete darkness one night before going to bed. It definitely could be said that listening to albums like this makes ANY album seem a lot better, it's really the only time that I could really get into any other situation it just doesn't do it for me. So if you're reading this right now in the middle of the night and you can't sleep, give this album a shot if you're in the mood for some brooding, ominous post-black metal.

7. "Redemption at the Puritan's Hand" - Primordial

This isn't Primordial's best album, but it has some really killer tracks nonetheless, with "No Grave Deep Enough" and "Bloody Yet Unbowed" being two of the best metal songs of the year. I didn't get into this album as much as their previous two, but who knows, maybe it will grow on me. Still, Nemtheanga's lyrics and vocals are, as usual, top-notch, and
this is definitely a welcome addition to Primordial's excellent line of great releases.

8. "The Great Mass" - Septicflesh

While overall not a superb album, some of the highlights are definitely worth listening to, such as "The Vampire of Nazareth" and Fotis Benardo's superb drumming. When listening to this album I get the same sort of "exotic" vibe that is similar to when I listen to other Greek metal bands such as Rotting Christ. The adventurous, epic atmospherics always gets me going, and coupled with mysterious, occult lyrics and excellent production makes for a very rewarding listening experience. Definitely planning on getting into their back catalogue and reading some interviews!

9. "Agony" - Fleshgod Apocalypse

Seriously balls-out symphonic death metal. I'm not really sure what else to say, but besides the batshit drums, this album is completely over-the-top with its overblown orchestrations and frantic energy. When you combine cheesy Italian power metal and ridiculously brutal, blasting death metal (think Hate Eternal), this is what you get, and it's a hell of a lot of fun!

10. "In the Flesh" - Nader Sadek

While not quite as ludicrous sound-wise as, say, Fleshgod Apocalypse, the drumming on this album (courtesy of Cryptopsy's Flo Mournier, one of the best extreme metal drummers EVER) is what does it for me. It's as if Flo is compensating for his relatively recent embarrassing ventures ("The Unspoken King", Digital Doomzday, cutting his hair) by unleashing absolute hell on his drum set. Seriously, this shit is nuts. It's also worth mentioning that you've got Blasphemer (ex-Mayhem) on guitar, Nicholas McMaster (Krallice) on bass, and Steve Tucker (ex-Morbid Angel) on vokills, and the whole project directed by Nader Sadek (responsible for Mayhem's live visual atmospherics). While the whole album is good, Flo's drum performance on this album is what makes it for me.

Greg Puciato: Calculating Infinity...On Drugs

We've all been there. You eat a little bit. You tell your friend a few minutes later, "Man, I don't feel anything." Your vastly more experienced friend says, "Just chill out, man. Drink some OJ or something." Instead, you grab the bag and ingest another handful or two...and BOOM! Half an hour later, you're wading through a cavern up to your waist in skim milk. Phosphorescent lights flash at random, supposedly leading your way, but instead they become disorienting. You need some fresh air. You hold on for dear life as you make it outside to your front porch. As you watch the ground recede from your front porch, you wonder to yourself, "If the forms of this world die, which is more real: the me that dies or the me that's infinite?"

All this happens as everyone else in the room is watching you writhe on the floor as if you're having a seizure, while mumbling something about "Banana phones."

It sounds like Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan had a similar experience a few days ago. Read his statement regarding it here.

Say what you want about the inexplicably heedless use of recreational drugs by some musicians (OK, A LOT of musicians)...and sure, he held up some emergency response workers...but it still makes for a hilarious story.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Kvlt Beyond Kvlt

While meandering around on YouTube watching Wolves in the Throne Room interviews, I came upon what I believe to be representative of the unattainable "kvlt beyond kvlt". Seeing and hearing is believing:

Apparently, they're called Goats int Throne Room (sic) and they are an actual band as evidenced by this concert footage:

So trve. So kvlt.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rob Darken Has Really Lost It This Time

I know everyone makes fun of Rob Darken all the time, and say what you will about all his past photo shoots, but seriously...what the fuck is this?! What was he thinking??!!

I'm too stupid to figure out how to post the pictures but just follow the link and check out Darken's new pics!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The State of Metal 2011: Judge Dredd's Dreaded Top 10

I read a quote somewhere on Metal Review that this wasn't exactly a good year for great metal music, but rather a great year for good metal music, and I couldn't agree more. However, this was THE year for United States Black Metal (USBM). Don't believe me? How about the fact that we got releases from almost every major USBM band this year including Wolves in the Throne Room, Absu, Leviathan, Krallice, Negative Plane, and Nightbringer, not to mention newcomers such as Deafheaven and Ash Borer. Still not satisfied? How about every USBM release that I have heard this year has been at least above average, not only relative to the individual artist's own discography, but also relative to the rest of the metal releases this year.

In fact, one could argue that USBM started to solidify it's identity this year. On the other hand, one could argue that the different styles employed by USBM are so disparate (complimented by the vast distances between regional scenes) that there will never be a USBM "identity". Some have wrestled with the narrow term "Cascadian Black Metal", but even that doesn't grasp the full spectrum of USBM sounds. Either way, one can hear influences of post-rock, crust punk, and shoegaze continue to infiltrate the sounds of many USBM bands, which clearly distinguishes it from the majority of European Black Metal bands.

Moving from Black Metal to Death Metal, if there is any revival that I was sick of as soon as it started, it is the Incantation-influenced Old School Death Metal. I understand that it's a backlash against the slick, over-produced sound of modern Death Metal (which I hate equally as much for the most part). No matter how much I have listened to new releases from Disma, Necros Christos, Cryptborn, and the like, I can't convince myself that this NOT the most boring shit that I've ever heard. Admittedly, there were one or two releases, namely "Parasingosis" by Mitochondrion and "Transformation" Sonne Adam, that really stuck with me. I think it's almost unfair to lump them in with the other bands because they actually write interesting (for the former) and memorable music (for the latter). What a concept! Plus Mitochondrion is just weird as fuck, which always gets points in my book. Hopefully Death Metal bands will give up trying to unearth the past, and start getting all psychedelic on our collective unwitting asses.

Lastly, I want to put in my two cents about the new releases from Mastodon and Opeth. Artists should be able to do what they want with their music. Oh, I'm sorry, they didn't make "Remission" or "Blackwater Park" again? Too bad, go listen to those albums then. Personally, I thought "The Hunter" was a great, catchy metal album, and I can appreciate Opeth's change of direction with "Heritage", but it just didn't really speak to me.


I think it's important that I reiterate why I'm Judge Dredd. After close to fifteen years of listening to Metal, I have honed a very dickish, particular listening taste. I like bands that have a distinct sound and style. I can tell you in the first minute of listening, "Oh, that's Immortal" or "That's the new Coalesce" However, I'm not going to be able to tell you which of the 10,000 Suffocation clones is currently playing.

OK, down to business. Since Deathspell Omega, Cult of Luna, nor Gorguts released a new album this year, I had a somewhat difficult time determining the number one spot. Here goes:

1. Celestial Lineage, by Wolves in the Throne Room

There's not too much to say about this album that hasn't already been said. With the last in their so-called trilogy, Wolves in the Throne Room deliver what I think to be their creative and musical masterpiece. On a more basic level, it seems as though they have combined the best of their last two previous albums to create this new one. One can tell meticulous and meditative detail went into the writing process and it didn't come out as overproduced like one might expect, but rather it continues the organic, expansive, and majestic sound that Wolves in the Throne Room have become so recognized for.

2. The Great Southern Darkness, by Glorior Belli

There is not one skippable track on this entire album, and I thereby dub the most consistent one of my Top 10. Just as their last album was titled, "Meet Us At The Southern Sign" and was telling of their change of direction, so is their 2011 effort. These French black metallers have injected a bit of a NOLA bluesy Sludge into their particular brand of Black Metal. While the reverse has been happening in recent years (Sludge/Doom bands being influenced by Black Metal), the reverse has not happened nearly as much. The combination, as shown by Glorior Belli, is flawless. One of the most overlooked albums of 2011.

3. An Ache for Distance, by The Atlas Moth

Supposedly, "An Ache for Distance" is about the experience of touring and being away from your home, family, and friends for months at a time. For instance, it has been suggested that "Coffin Varnish" is about the mass consumption of alcohol that takes place for many bands while they're on the road, and the (not just physical) effects it has. One can tell it's a very personal and emotional record for the band, and thereby the listener as well. Musically speaking, the band continues down a path of forging their own creative identity. One can here nuances of Gothic Metal, Sludge, Psychedelia, and Black Metal.

4. Path of Totality, by Tombs

One (of many) great things about this 2011 release is that Tombs eschews the usual fragility of existentialist being that is prominently displayed in most Black Metal. Instead, they opt for an injection of tough guy NYC Metalcore. They specifically achieve this through the vocals and their pummeling rhythmic style moreso than anything else. As much of a disaster as that sounds, it actually increases the misanthropic intensity of the album. Combine this with elements of dark post-punk, and you have one of the best US Black Metal releases of the year!

5. Ascension, by Jesu

Technically speaking, there is plenty to complain about concerning this record. The production is thin and brittle. Justin Broadrick's vocals are completely buried. The drums sound like shit. From a purely emotional standpoint, I think this is Jesu's best album since their self-titled 2004 release. Maybe the production is thin and brittle, just as our memories fade and our yearning for the past changes. Maybe Broadrick's vocals are buried because that's how he feels beneath this nostalgia. Maybe the drums sound like shit because...I don't know. When Broadrick first set out to create Jesu, he wanted to create his version of pop music, and I think he's been steadily coming closer and closer to that goal, no matter how shitty the production is. Also, "Sedatives" is the "metal" song of the year.

6. Murder The Mountains, by Red Fang

This album should be accompanied by whiskey, cheap beer, and cigarettes. It just plain rocks in that boozy, dirty, unpretentious way. Red Fang still wears there Melvins influence on their sleeve, but this collection of songs is much more memorable (even catchy) and thoroughly written than the songs on their previous album.

7. White Silence, by Cave In

Not metal enough? Don't care! Throughout their varied career, Cave In has become one of my favorite bands. "White Silence" is the heaviest album Cave In has put out in over 10 years. It's certainly not the most creatively groundbreaking of the quartet's catalogue, but probably the ballsiest and punchiest. Even the lighter tracks have the ability to reach out from the speakers and punch you square in the gonads!

9. The Apologist, by East of the Wall

Not metal enough...again? Don't care! East of the Wall combine progressive rock acrobatics and post-hardcore sentimentality into a stunning recipe. There is no stand out track and no stand out player. While each band member has an equal part of the pie as far as showmanship and interweaving rhythms goes, each track flows seamlessly to the next. This creates this year's most fluid album while at the same time being fastidiously written and expertly played.

9. The Hunter, by Mastodon

Again, enough has already been written about this that I can't add much more. This is Mastodon's rock album. The tracks are more catchy and simple than anything Mastodon has in the past. They openly admitted that this album was put together quickly (which one can especially notice with the vote for worst lyrics of the year, actually), but to be able to pull a record like this off after releasing their most progressively influenced record in 2009, "Crack the Skye", is impressive.

10. Roads to Judah, by Deafheaven

At first, I was a bit put off by "Roads to Judah" because it seemed like a constant barrage without any real sense of rhythmical variation, which happens to be a big pet peeve of mine when it comes to metal music. However, I gave the music some more time and I realized that it's hypnotic the same way that many Black Metal bands are, such as Burzum and Weakling. However, Deafheaven execute it in a way that seems to transcend the void rather than getting lost in it. One only needs to listen to the opening of "Violet" to experience the expansive nature of their sound.

Honorable Mentions (in no specific order):

777-Sect(s) and 777-The Desanctification, by Blut Aus Nord

Five Serpent's Teeth, by Evile

Orphan, by Gridlink

Cursed, by Rotten Sound

Guiltless, by Indian

Omnium, by Obscura

iii, by Aosoth

Destroyers of All, by Ulcerate

Venerable, by KEN mode

Parasignosis, by Mitochondrion

I Just Didn't Get It In 2011:

There were a few albums that people seemed to obsess over that I just didn't get. Usually these albums would be something I'm into, but I just couldn't find the magic in them.

Mammal, by Altar of Plagues

Rest, Rwake

The Inside Room, by 40 Watt Sun

Biggest Disappointment (besides the obvious Morbid Angel and Loutallica):

Heritage, by Opeth

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I said in my introduction that people gave them too much shit. However, I am basing my disappointment not from the change in their sound, but purely on the quality of the songs. Sad, though, because it's probably the first time that Opeth didn't make my Top 10 for the year. Eh, I'll deal with it.

Most Anticipated Album of 2012:


There you have it! Here's to a hellacious 2012!!!

- Judge Dredd