Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Awesome Bands You Should Know... FALSE

FALSE is black metal band from Minneapolis, Minnesota that has, so far, only released 3 songs, but holy hell, they are 3 amazing jams. In a time, where there is almost no mystic to anything anymore, especially in music, FALSE is doing something different. Nowadays, every band in the world is on Facebook, Twitter, etc and informing fans of every fart they rip. Its even common now among black metal bands who claim to be super evil and grim. Its kind of humorous to imagine a dude in corpse paint & gauntlets tying on a computer at the local library to inform his 28 fans of his "infernal deeds". For a style of music like black metal where everything was supposed to be very much against the grain and confrontational, the aesthetics have essentially become just another image for people to pose with. That's why its refreshing that a band like FALSE has almost no internet presence. They dont have a band page, no facebook, no twitter, no nothing. The only shit you will find about FALSE online is either from other sources writing about the band or a bit on Gilead Media's web pages. They dont have their faces plastered everywhere with stupid promo pics, hell they dont even make their names public, but at the same time they dont make a big deal of hiding their identities. They dont wear corpse paint or spikes. They have no image. They are simply a group of people from Minnesota who have come together to make some blistering, killer black metal, and that its. They simply let the music doing the talking. FALSE's debut came in the form of "Untitled", last year through Gilead Media. "Untitled" was released only on 12" vinyl and via digital download. It features 2 songs, Side A is "The Key of Passing Suffering" and Side B is "Sleepmaker". I loathe the current overuse of the term epic, but there really is no better descriptor for these 2 jams, with both of them clocking in at well over 12 minutes each. The record starts off with a bang as they jump straight into the ruckus. They are able to easily marry crusty punk and viscious black metal, with brutal unhinged ferocity. However, they also are able to simulataneously be expansive and spacious with subtle use of synths as the song progressives further. This is exactly what makes FALSE so compelling they are able to find a middle ground between being primal, visceral & vile, but also being ethereal and otherworldly. They take the best of old school black metal, with a nice part of the progressive, avant garde wing of black metal and mold it into a sound of there own. The B side, "Sleepmaker" is another long blast of malicious intent. Its an unrelenting, violent attack for the first 5 minutes or so, before it breaks into a momentary respite that is depressive and melancholy. After the few moments to catch our break, FALSE return us the the hellish maelstorm. The vocals on both songs are harsh and brutal throughout without any mercy, as is comon in alot of BM. They are all screamed in a monsterous throaty snarl, but they never delve into cookie monster gutturals or super high pitched shrieking. They are also pretty clear compared to alot of vocals in black metal and extreme metal in general. Much of the lyrics are quite easily deciphered without a lyric sheet.
  Also of note, the vocalist in FALSE is a woman, although you probably wouldnt realize it by hearing her vocals. I only mention it because I think its a cool thing that they have a female vocalist, especially being a black metal band, but also because so many metal bands that have a woman in the band put alot of focus on her, & often sadly seem to try to use sex appeal as a marketing tool. This is not the case with FALSE, obviously, and makes their complete lack of image that much cooler. In some ways, FALSE reminds me of one of the most legendary of American Black Metal bands, San Francisco's WEAKLING. Weakling was also a pretty enigmatic band that had long songs that coupled hellacious intensity with somber sad moments. Unfortunately Weakling only released one album and then fell apart, hopefully FALSE sticks around alot longer. FALSE's "Untitled" album made quite an impact on me as well as a number of other black metal fans and critics, as it ended up on a number of Best of 2011 lists at year's end, including mine. Not too damn shabby for a band's debut that was only 2 songs. FALSE's "Untitled" record came with a patch and a button when ordered from Gilead Media, but I believe its now sold out, so unless they press more, you'll have to either get it from a secondary place or just buy the mp3's. So since its release the band has been doing some touring and from all Ive heard is super intense and just as amazing live, if not even more so. Sadly, I missed them when they were in Indy a few months back, but I wont make the same mistake again. The most recent release from FALSE came out this year, again through Gilead Media only on vinyl and digital download, in the form of a 12" split LP with the raw, lo-fi BM band BARGHEST, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Each band has one side of the LP, with FALSE's half containing just one song, the 17 & a half minute long beast, "Heavy as a Church Tower", while BARGHEST's side has 2 jams, "Shifting Sands" & "Inhuman Hatred". The first few minutes of "Heavy as a Church Tower" are a bit more restrained and not as ferocious in their opening as their previous efforts, these opening minutes are also instrumentals, with the vocals not bursting in for a few minutes, but when they do they signal the marked change of intensity as FALSE go on the attack, barreling full speed ahead for several minutes before slowing things down a bit, but even then they are never far away from blast beats and high velocity assualts. They also again make subtle use of synths that give the song an Emperor-esque granduer at times. This new track takes the visceral intensity of their debut, and couples it with a better command of atmosphere. It will be interesting to see where FALSE go from here. They have already set the bar quite high despite only releasing a total of 3 songs. Wherever they go, I can almost guarantee it will be worth checking out. In 2 short years, 2 releases, 3 songs, & about 43 minutes of music they have vaulted themselves near the forefront of the American Black Metal scene without any of the bullshit or marketing.
Andy Sweitzer

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Awesome Bands You Should Know... EHNAHRE

EHNAHRE is an avant garde, death/doom band from Boston, Massachusetts. The band was formed in 2006, although an earlier version of the band existed in the late 90's when 3 of the original members were in high school. This early version of the band was called Negative Reasoning, which was gleaned from the Eyehategod song "Non Conductive Negative Reasoning", & at that time the band was often refered to by it's initials NR. Negative Reasoning sounded nothing like how Ehnahre would come to sound, as this early incarnation evolved through a variety of styles including hardcore, grind, metalcore, & sludge before calling it quits around 2000. The core of Ehnahre is Ryan Mcguire and John Carchia. Aside from playing in Negative Reaction, they would both join Kayo Dot in '03 and then leave Kayo Dot in 2006 to form Ehnahre. When deciding upon this new band name, they decided to have it be a slight nod to their past together, choosing the initials of Negative Reasoning, "NR", but spelling it out phonetically. That is the origin of the band name and also indicates its proper pronunciation. The band quickly set about making interesting, progressive music that was both experimental but extremely heavy. In 2008, Ehnahre would release their debut full length, "The Man Closing Up", through Sound Devastation Records. Ehnahre - The Man Closing Up
The album is just shy of 45 minutes in length and is divided into 5 tracks, simply titled Part I - V. The tracks basically bleed into one another so the record is really best looked at as one piece. The precedent of using/adapting existing lyrical content would begin here. So far all of Ehnahre's albums have used the written works of different poets or writers for their lyrics. "The Man Closing Up" takes its words from the work of Donald Justice. The music is a brutal assault combining elements of violent death metal with sludge and doom, as well as jazz, ambient, noise, and other genres. The album often seems improvised and comes off as though everything could fall apart at any moment. The artwork is stark, black & white photos of a shoreline and surrounding area. Its bleak, desolate & haunting. The audio captures these themes as well, while also adding violent bludgeonings. Ehnahre's music is often atonal and dissonant, with much of what they do being based on music theory. They are heavily influenced by the 12 tone serialism of composer Arnold Schoenberg . All of this adds up to make them a very unique sounding band. On this album the band was Ryan Mcguire (bass, double bass, voice, & percussion), John Carchia (guitar, voice), DJ Murray (guitar, voice, keyboard), Tom Malone (drums, guitar), & Andrew Hock (guitar). Mcguire, Carchia, Murray, & Malone were all formerly in Kayo Dot, while Hock had been in Castavet and Biolich. The album also features some other guest and session musicians many of which were also in other bands like Kayo Dot, Maudlin of the Well, Baliset, etc. The additional instruments included trumpet & violin among others. Following this album, Ehnahre released a cassette titled "Pipeline"  in 2009, which was a live recording of Parts II, III, & V from "The Man Closing Up". It was initially self released by the band on cassette, with only 50 copies being made. It was re-released shortly after this by Semata Productions, again on tape only, in the amount of 175 copies, but with different artwork. The band's next release would be the vinyl only EP, "Alpha/Omega" in 2010. It was released by Fun With Asbestos on 12" Vinyl and limited to 100 copies. It featured 2 new songs, "Leda & The Swan" and "The Second Coming", both of which featured lyrics culled from the work of William Yeats. That same year, 2010, saw the release of Ehnahre's 2nd full length album, "Taming The Cannibals", through Crucial Blast. Ehnahre - Taming the CannibalsThe album clocks in at about 35 minutes and has 6 individual songs with distinct titles. Also, unlike their debut LP, the songs on here are self contained and do not run into one another, although they do share similar themes and moods. The album is cohesive but the tracks are work as stand alone pieces. While still extremely heavy at times with definite death metal and grind influences still present, the album seems more spacious in a way and even more experimental and progressive. Its horrific, ugly, violent music that twists and contorts. At times dragging along, crawling and scraping its way through primordial sludge, but then can shift in an instant to blast beaten, flesh flaying brutality.  Again the lyrics come from poetry, this time a variety of authors, including F.R. Higgins, Georg Trakl, Walt Whitman, & Robin Jeffers. The line up by this point was narrowed down to a 3 piece, McGuire (bass, voice, keys), Carchia (guitar, voice), & Ricardo Donoso (drums, electronics, voice). Again they used some guests in the studio, this time it was Greg Kelley on trumpet, Jonah Jenkins of Raw Radar War & formerly of Only Living Witness, on a guest vocal spot, & C. Spencer Yeh on violin. Ehnahre would shortly begin working on the follow up to this album as only 2 years later it would be delivered unto unsuspecting music fans. This 3rd album is titled "Old Earth" and it would be released in September of 2012, again through Crucial Blast, following a number of delays.
 Ehnahre - Old Earth
"Old Earth" is just over 37 minutes, split across 4 tracks. Similar to "The Man Closing Up", the album is essentially one piece of music as the tracks are not individually titled, they blend into each other and the insert inside the case has one set of lyrics simply titled "Old Earth". This time the lyrics are adapted from a piece by Samuel Beckett. The artwork is all earthly images, dirt, roots, stone, etc all natural and untouched by man. Musically this album is a continuation of the growth the band has shown across all of their work. Its simultaneously primal and progressive. There are moments of utter beauty juxtaposed with moments of brutish ugliness. The band is still heavier and more crushing than 90% of the bands around, but it seems as though they are continuing to push more and more into experimenta and avant garde areas through noise, ambient, jazz, etc, but they do so without every going to far and losing their rough edges. The line up for "Old Earth" remained the same as "Taming the Cannibals" other than the 2 guest spots, which were both Greg Kelley and Forbes Graham (also ex- Kayo Dot) on trumpets. This album is one of the highlights of extreme music in 2012, and will no doubt rank high on my best of 2012, year end list. Ive previously written about it as an Album of the Day on Facebook and its deserving of so much more praise. Ehnahre has become one of my favorite newer bands that Ive come across in some time. They truly sound unique in a time when so many bands are just regurgitating the same things over and over. I cant hype this band enough nor can I recommend them to enough people, but at the same time I understand that this music is not for everyone. Even within the realms of heavy music & extreme metal, Ehnahre are very much against the grain and inaccessible, so while I would love for everyone who reads this to run out and buy everything Ehnahre's released because I feel they deserve it and I feel this is important music as far as the evolution of music goes, you should probably listen to some songs online and get an idea of what they actually sound like before you buy the records, otherwise you may get more than you bargained for.
Andy Sweitzer

Friday, December 14, 2012

Awesome Bands You Should Know...PANOPTICON

PANOPTICON is the name of Austin Lunn's one man music project. One person bands are somewhat common within the realm of Black Metal, and Panopticon most definitely play black metal much of the time, and do it quite well.  However, it is the other side of Panopticon's sound, particularly on new album "Kentucky", that makes the band that much more interesting. On "Kentucky", Lunn isnt bringing in elements of shoegaze, crust, or doom as is increasingly common among American black metal bands. He's doing something that I dont believe anyone else has ever done within the realm of black metal, which is play bluegrass. Yes, you heard me right, BLUEGRASS, and as odd as that may sound to you, its fits, and it fits extremely well. Metal bands having been bringing in elements of folk music for awhile now, hell there is even a subgenre now called Folk Metal, but it is almost always European folk music, which makes alot of sense for European bands, but less so for American band. Black Metal has long had a flirtatious history with folk music with many bands historically and currently being very connected to their native lands and the music and folklore of those places. As more and more black metal bands have sprung up in the United States we have seen some who have also been influenced by folk metal and these things, but its seems to me that Panopticon is one of, if not the, first band to take American Folk music tradions and fuse them to a chasis of black metal. The band was started in 2007 with Panopticon released their self titled debut the following year, in 2008, and have been pretty prolific since then. The band has always been different from alot of other black metal bands, take for example this statement from Lunn himself describing Panopticon, “a black metal band focusing on political and philosophical issues such as anarchism, subjectivism, society, paganism, pantheism, Norse mythology/heathenism and beer. I created this project because i was tired of consumer driven music, a-political and boring ,stale Satanism and racist bullshit that plagues the black metal community. no hair cuts, no big record labels, no bigotry, no drum machines, no rulers, no masters.” The beer reference may seem odd also but Lunn makes his living outside of music by professionally brewing beer. Panopticon's 2nd LP, "Collapse" was released in 2009 through Pagan Flames Productions, and is the point at which the bluegrass influence started to rear its head. The album themes of the downfall of civilization, survival in a post-apocalyptic world, & the survivor's need to reconnect with nature are well integrated not only through the music and lyrics but also through samples and field recordings. In 2010, Lunn self released a compilation of sorts called "...On the Subject of Mortality". It was extremely limited and was a handcrafted wooden box containing Panopticon's split with Skagos and their split with When The Bitter Spring, as well as a T shirt, 2 patches and a print of the album artwork. This "album" was re-released in 2011 via The Flenser on vinyl, but not in the wooden box or with any of the other items. "On The Subject of Mortality, as the title implies is largely a meditation on one's own death. From what I understand, Lunn's father died somewhere around that time period and the songs on that compilation reflect Lunn's attempts at dealing with the loss of his father as well as meditating on his own demise.  After the release of a couple more splits came the 3rd full length LP, "Social Disservices", through Flenser Records in 2011. "Social Disservices" is a much more hostile, angry album than much of what came before or after for Panopticon. It is basically a concept album about children who fall between the crack of the system that is supposed to help them and protect them. The album features ferocious, violent black metal, post rock atmospherics, and as is common in Panopticon's work, samples. The samples, as always, help direct attention to the themes and concept of the record along with the lyrics, and they are as powerful as ever. One sample is even of crying children, so you get the idea. Its an album that is as powerful as it is passionate, and in keeping with the ideals behind the band, attacking the institutions of society that have failed its people. Keeping on pace with Panopticon's seeming schedule of releasing 1 full length album a year, in 2012 we were graced with the amazing new album, "Kentucky". Released this summer through Pagan Flames Productions, "Kentucky" is another concept album, this time dealing with the state Lunn call's home. The main theme of the record is the coal industry and its impact on the people and environment. It delves into mountain top removal, labor disputes, unions, worker's rights, greed, and environmentalism. This is the album that features bluegrass and folk most prominently of all the Panopticon albums, but make no mistake, fierce black metal is still very much a part of the album. The album somewhat alternates between the two styles, but occasionally overlaps them to great effect. It also features 2 traditional labor protest songs that Lunn perform's excellently and doing justice to their 1930's origin. Samples again are a big part of this album with some of them coming from documentaries about mountain top removal and the coal industry in general, some from youtube clips, and also the film "Harlan County USA". All of them fit the mood perfectly and really draw the listener into the struggles at the heart of this album and state. For me personally, "Kentucky" is my favorite Panopticon album, and will rank very high on my best of 2012 list I'm certain. I'm very interested to see what comes next for Panopticon. Each album is different and has its own specific theme, while always being rooted in the overall ideology behind the band, so I'm eager to see what cause or issue will be at the heart of the next album, but also musically whether or not Lunn can fully integrate bluegrass and black metal into each other or if he will largely keep them seperate.

Andy Sweitzer

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The End of 2012

So its 12/12/12 today and we are atleast aproaching the end of the year, maybe the end of time, lol. I havent done shit on this page or the zine in general in all these last few months because I'm a shithead, but I'm going to work on that and get some stuff done on here and hopefully in print in the coming weeks and months, provided the world doesnt end. The first big thing to look for will be my Best of 2012 list(s), so stay tuned...