REVIEW: Toska - Toska EP

TOSKA
TOSKA
EIHWAZ RECORDINGS

Toska's Self-titled EP (though so long it might as well be an album) is an odd egg within the now faded, and generally iffy, genre of black-metal. It rests on old tropes, winter themed ambiances and off-kilter vocal style, whilst refusing to touch upon the hipster fueled nuances of bands like DEAFHEAVEN. Instead of a constant wall of sound, such as with the latter mentioned band, Toska bothers to provide you with clean and precise song work. The attention to quality is here, and the band made sure that the music matches their themes and speaks for them. However, this gives way to a glaring issue: nothing Toska does is new, groundbreaking, or original.

Yes, the entirety of Toska's Self-tited EP is a collection of similar sounds, similar atmospheres, and even it's cover, though appealing, doesn't really stand out. Though, a person could probably attribute this to the tired expectations of the genre. Forever has black metal been doing the same things, changing only recently, and when a band tries to stick too much to the tropes - it's bound to sound just like everything else out there. Why? Because every straight-forward black-metal band practically does the same things, the content only ever changing slightly. There is only so much that can be done before a band reaches too far and becomes something it really isn't; not black-metal. In that regard, you have to give Toska's EP some respect. It reaches into the barrel and pieces together something as new as it possibly can, even if they don't really work (especially the vocals).

Can I talk about the vocals? Yes, do not expect to be particularly entranced, moved, terrified, or feel anything for the vocals as you probably will be inadvertently ignoring them throughout the majority of this EP. For the most part, they are hidden well beneath the music and are little more then unintelligible raspy whispers and grumblings. At times, they might pick up, but by that time your ear is so used to fazing out their existence that you'll barely notice they are there. I'm almost certain that this was some attempt to sound otherworldly, but it comes off rather pointless.

Really, I do appreciate the effort this Icelandic band has put forth. The heart was there, the talent most certainly, but Toska absolutely drowns in its influences - drawing way too much from other bands and, therefore, losing it's own identity. If only the band had taken the effort to do something a little different, a little less expected.

Thoughts on: Gojira's 'Silvera'

'When opening your eyes to the genocide, obstructions such as
flowers and ink should be removed as well.'
Magma is certainly shaping up to be a highlight album for Gojira. I'm almost certain that the band wishes to show that it's simple (yet unique) sound can evolve - or, at the very least, expand. Most, including myself, were really unsure of where they'd go after L'avant Sauvage and I'm glad to see that one of my favorite bands has yet to falter out after five albums. However, I'm somewhat thrown off by the creative direction that the video for 'Silvera' is pushing for.

You see, Gojira has always had it's own style of presentation atop the sound. Videos for tracks like 'Love,' 'To Sirus,' 'L'avant Sauvage,' and 'Vacuity' had a simple, straight-forward, message accompanied by videos that looked as if they came from a mid-90's art house production (except for maybe 'Vacuity'). Either way, every video seemed to express an implication of the human condition, but on a more personal and thoughtful scale. They complimented the tracks they were associated with. The 'Silvera' video aims for the sky, crashes through it, and comes down screaming. In this video, a lot is happening - even things that don't seem to coincide with the song at all. People are being raptured, thrust upwards into the sky, while a ugly woman is covered in flour as she dances. Faceless homosexual people are staring at mirrors as they kiss (a obvious reference to social media culture), some people aren't faceless or being taken by rapture, and a guy is dipping his face into black ooze - just cause it's creepy, I guess. Meanwhile, you're seeing people dancing like superheroes with black ink and flower pedals around their eyes,  By the time the video ends, the faceless people are still looking at their glass mirrors (in masses, no doubt some implication that they've lost their individuality), and people are jumping off buildings - hoping to be taken by the rapture before they hit the ground, Whoa.
This man likes his ooze, apparently, and white rooms.

I think individually these things would make sense with the songs overall message of change, but as a whole Gojira seems to have thrown everything in but the kitchen sink. Interspersed, scarcely, there are even images of pollution and ship-yards rusting in the water - which, on it's own, could have been a video. Sadly, the video 'Silvera' feels like it's a complete burn out of ideas. What happened to the side-lined message and odd simplicity of 'Stranded'? What even happened with this video?

Well, at least the song itself is outstanding. It doesn't really have the impact or lyrical change that 'Stranded' did - reverting back to the typical big message style everyone expects. Clean singing is here again, and I'm betting they'll be a permanent part of the band's song-writing from here on out. Though, no worries guys, clean singing has been going on since L'avant Sauvage, maybe a little before that - so it's nothing new. Difference is, with Magma it seems to be better implemented.

REVIEW: Cetacean - Breach | Submerge

CETACEAN
BREACH | SUBMERGE
APES WHO LOOKED UP RECORDS


Once upon a time, bands like Neurosis, Yob, even early Mastodon, set the bar for what what was expected from metal. Everything was percussive, blunt, and heavy-handed - an evolution of noise rock bands, maybe even grunge. Though you could say that the popularity of most of these groups sort of caused an inversion of sorts. Most, like Mastodon, went on to experiment more freely with their style, while others just faded into obscurity, or just stuck to what they were doing, failing to grow their respective audiences. Bands like this do still pop up, and while none of them are bad, I've yet to experience any that capture the sheer diversity of Cetacean.

Breach | Submerge is all about aggression; sudden and invasive. This isn't wholly new by any means but Cetacean differs by paving the way, twisting a suddenly, calm, landscape of sound into one of desperation and anger. Rather than draw upon the more modern poppy progression of bands like Haken or the Devin Townsend Project, Cetacean connects its aggression with more rooted ambient styles similar to those of Pink Floyd, or even Ihsahn (of Emperor fame). Clean sections are abundant, but include a more fusion-esque style that involves even Saxophone to keep things where they should be, and ultimately make the main sections of Breach | Submerge more effective.

However...

At its center, Breach | Submerge is wholly a love-letter to Neurosis. Everything from the vocal style, to the song-writing, reflects this. And, though Cetacean is the best of the best when it comes to an imitation, I couldn't help but feel that things didn't always push far away from that sort of distinction. Certainly, the band pulls through with its own additions and, to me, is almost more enjoyable then it's influence, but there will be those who won't be able to escape the obvious comparison. Sadly, I also feel that Cetacean's sound is too concerned with mixing known influences rather than finding its own identity.

Cetacean does enough to be different but still remains all-too familiar, and despite everything there is to like, it's always a piece of something else that has come before. Breach | Submerge is great, a monumental piece of song-writing and diversity, and should still be experienced despite its flaws.

Thoughts On: Babymetal's 'KARATE'

Babymetal make sure their fans have a hard-time trying
to distinguish the band as either cute or bad-ass.
For those of you who follow this blog (not many, I'm guessing), or for those who don't know, I am actually an avid fan of Japanese culture. Not the fluffy stuff, usually, but more the mecha, heavy-handed ultra-serious anime, food, and, most importantly, the metal - which encompasses the countries willingness to experiment with things that North America just won't. So, its safe to say that I do not hate Babymetal and that, in a lot of cases, I actually enjoy the group a lot. There is just something about the non-political non-offense nature of the act, it makes for a great escape when you are someone with over 2000 rock, punk, black, and death metal releases in their inbox - each ready to make the next big political statement (side note: this is also the reason I can't always get to every album I'm sent).

You've probably heard about the groups recent album 'Metal Resistance' and I wish I could be any bit excited about it, but I'm not. Not because I feel they suck or anything, I just didn't expect Babymetal to go too far - and still don't. These girls have made it past being a simple staple now, and that is fantastic, but everything so far has hinged on them being cute girls in metal. It doesn't take a genius to know that these girls are a product, and it's public knowledge that their existence was literally a spin-off of another larger project Sakura Gakuin (brought to you by the 'idol' machine 'Amuse, Inc'). What's going to happen when they are women and Amuse wants to pull the plug? I don't know. But, hey, at least they've managed to put out something rather memorable and make a huge impact on the metal community.

Babymetaladvocates for the proper treatment of flies during
karate related incidents
.
Naturally, this group is going to put out a new music video - KARATE.' Fifty percent of Babymetal is dance, and they are actually very good at it - so why not show off? I would. My niece is a massive fan of the choreography, always trying to keep up with their style, and with 'KARATE' she really aimed to emulate what they've done here. I'm not going to pretend to know if their 'moves' are based on actual karate - I don't really think it matters if they are. Though, the effort proves to be entertaining, not in a silly way or anything, and I do like the fact that Babymetal feels the need to add that extra touch to their music.
and, obviously, have with the song '

Of course, with the actual song, you're going to be trying to dig the insanely catchy lyrics out of your skull (even if you don't know a word of Japanese). Vocals are still a strong draw, they do represent the 'Baby' aspect of Babymetal after all, but they feel less cute and more sensible for the style of music being played. I also didn't mind the noticeable pull-back of the heavy vocals, as they sometimes felt tacky in the past. The 'metal' aspect of their music has gotten heavier, more thought out, reflecting a more serious mind-set when it comes to song writing.  Yes, I complain that the band is probably not going to survive adulthood, but hell if they aren't trying to.


Side note 
I'd like to also say that the costume work is really good in this video and I loved the playing bands new look, No more cheesy skeleton suits! Instead, your getting something straight out of Lordi and its fantastic. Also, I'm aware that this video was released in march and I'm only getting around to it now.

REVIEW: Seedna - Forlorn

SEEDNA
FORLORN
TRANSCENDING OBSCURITY RECORDS

Seedna's Forlorn is an exercise in emotion, a swath of myopic themes ranging from the melancholy to that of shattered hopes and endless regrets. It's all about depression, and, to me, it's about as depressing as an album can get. For some people this is a welcoming experience, and for the most part I can understand that, but though Forlorn perfectly captures its themes - there are some flaws.

Forlorn is good, most of it. Seedna doesn't dwell on its black metal influences and doesn't seem to be afraid of branching out towards sub-genres like progressive and doom. Things change enough to keep a listener invested (unless they're of a softer breed, then you'll most likely just scare the hell out of them) and I really appreciate it's more 'insane' moments - such as a certain lyrical spiral that happens on the track 'Frozen.' The pitch laden, almost hardcore-punk vocal style really gives Forlorn a sharper edge then most hybrid-genre albums and it provided a desperate tone that really complimented the lyrics and song-writing. Some moments really had me harking back to older My Dying Bride, the tone being highly reminiscent of albums like 'Light at the End of the World.' However, there is a huge downside to this: themes, lyrics, and song-writing that encompasses feelings reminiscent to that of misery often sound, well, miserable. And, misery is a grating experience that makes people feel numb, aimless, and without passion. The sheer amount of repetition that can occur on some of Forlorn's tracks perfectly encompasses this, but mostly when it comes to cleaner playing and, more specifically, the song 'Passage.'

On 'Passage' you will experience the following: endless unchanging repetition, no variety whatsoever, and a backing effect that sounds like someone just dumped pop-rocks on their tongue. The latter effect almost completely turned me off this album, I'm not sure what Seedna was going for but it becomes unbearably grating almost instantly. The whisper-like passages of this song are lost to me because I was spending too much time trying to power through the song's flaws. Worse yet? The very same effect is repeated as a backing-track for the song 'Eternal' - at least that track manages to escape the drudgery of this song's repetition, though it is still grating.

Don't get me wrong, I do like Forlorn and I could go on about how good it is all day. Seedna had truly captured depression and melancholy well, without being DSBM (thank you) and, no doubt about it, I'll be listening to tracks like 'Abyssus' for a while to come.  Though, that being said, it's because of this that the album's few negative aspects are made more apparent. Metal albums aren't supposed to be perfect however, especially those who carry the moniker of black or blackened, and those able to push past Forlorn's few flaws will find themselves pleasantly surprised by there is to be found.

REVIEW: Battle Path - Ambedo

BATTLE PATH
AMBEDO
WOOD AND STONE PRODUCTIONS

Variety is a make or break sort of thing. If a band can do it cohesively, then there is little problem with a little experimentation. If said experimentation is jarring, misplaced, or just doesn't seem to fit where it's put, then it's not going to go over well. You probably already expect that this has something to do with Battle Path's Ambedo, and it does, but probably not in the way one would think.

You see, Ambedo is an all-round excellent album that provides massive blackened doom tracks, often laden with progressive touches you'd expect from other genres or bands. It's a blessing those of Battle Path considered experimentation when it came to these tracks, as Ambedo is full of 8-10 minute songs that would otherwise be tiring if things didn't change up from the first track. Being perfectly honest though, most tracks still feel overly long and a product of the big progressive-metal boom that happened a few years back (in which it wasn't uncommon to find bands recording songs ranging from 10 minutes to an hour or so in length). The issue with Ambedo isn't that it's variety doesn't work, it does - its that almost every track feels like it's from another band, albeit sharing the same vocalist.

Listening to 'Raging Host' and making your way to 'Finnis Omnium' is akin to listening to a compilation album. The songs all fit into the same category, sure, but while 'Raging Host' is a more ambient black, 'Finnis Omnium' is practically noise, little else. Some tracks include electronics, like 'A Thirst For Blood' which always fit, and some have heavy use of keyboards - often sounding a little like Opeth. One track just goes off the doom track completely and sounds almost like something you'd expect from Dimmu Borgir (seriously) - only to end, again, as ambient black? As you can see, it's all over the place. Is it honestly bad though? No.

Battle Path knows what they are doing, it just seems as though all these tracks were written over a period of creative differences, or some sort of issue along those lines. Disorganization has carved a jagged, yet interesting, path down the center of Ambedo. For me, this album very much encapsulates 2014-15, when progressive and blackened metal sub-genres were absolutely huge. It takes the best of that world and stuffs it all into one package, not always cohesive, but not lacking in quality either.
 

Thoughts on: GOJIRA's 'Stranded'

At the time of this little piece of writing, Gojira has released 5 studio albums and has now put up Magma for pre-order. In order to promote the new album, the band has put up a new video to promote their upcoming release - hoping to highlight some of the band's newer aspects with the song 'Stranded.'

Firstly, I'll get the obvious out of the way. Of course, 'Stranded' is a great track - it's Gojira. The band has always maintained a certain level of quality and has yet to change a single member, and they've never really shoveled out anything I'd personally consider filler. I'll say now that the days of Terra Incognita are over. I know a lot of people wish that the band would go back to that schizo-thrash sound they had way back, but I think that would completely defeat the purpose of the band's music - at least at this point. Instead, there seems to be more of a focus on evolving L'Enfant Sauvage, just as that album was a evolution of From Mars to Sirius, and I couldn't be happier for it.

'Stranded' is dead simple; primal - as much staple of Gojira's sound as their tendency to break song-writing conventions. The most 'over-the-top' thing about the song is, as always, Mario Duplantier's skill with a drum set. Rarely does the man disappoint, if ever. All other players are there simply to provide what makes the band so good: heavy (and, of course, the band's blunt and honest view on everything that ever was). So, what makes Stranded any different then anything else they've done before? Not much, but enough. I've certainly never gotten tired of their sound, and many others feel the same as I, but they've added a new effectual technique to this song I can barely even describe. It's almost something you'd hear in Nu-Metal, a whine that is just there to basically sound cool - a nice touch. The flange, however, isn't really something I find myself liking. I get it's there to show you they are working with the basic tools, basic skill, and putting all this music together with the power of... souls, or something, but it makes a great song sound a bit cheap (even though it would sound better if the effect wasn't present at all). There is a bit of singing too, which I like. Don't act like it's selling out because it was just fine on L'Enfant Sauvage.

The biggest draw is that this track seems to almost be about abandonment, a failed attempt at a relationship, and definitely something to do with obsession. I've not really heard too much of this from Gojira, and it's almost unexpected at this point - especially since the lyrics seem to be from a personal view and not looking into a situation or role-playing a dead-minded lifeless media sponge (like with the track 'Art of Dying', not the whole album). This, on it's own, is enough of a change to get me hooked.

What are your thoughts on the new song; hopes for their new album?