Holidays are a blessing and a curse. Myself being a university student, avoiding strenuous and taxing work is cunningly sculpted into an art form. It usually involves short bursts of manic floundering about at select times during semester, aided by stimulants both over-the-counter and shamelessly illegal. Holidays come and the uni student population either sets themselves up for menial labor to fund their alcohol-fuelled escapades throughout the course of the year, or they go home to Minsk. Not many people I know go home to Minsk, except for my good friend Jan who accompanied me to the Gamma Ray concert at the Hi-Fi Bar over a month ago. Usually a staid, unimpressionable fellow, haughty in his own European refinement was displeased with Melbourne's ubiquitous support act, Vanishing Point...or was it Black Majesty? I really can't tell any more, since Silvio Massaro and Gio Cavaliere are almost interchangeable sonically and physically - they're always singing "duets" at every gig I'm at. An extravagant excuse to meet the top-billing band? Well, duh. One gig had the Herman Li-maned vocalist from Eyefear perform a duet for some reason as well. Who wouldn't want to meet Nevermore, really? If you've got the cool, you may as well travel. Anyway, Jan was beaming with metal pride by the end of Gamma Ray's spine-tinglingly awesome set, I almost had to slap him to stop gushing over Kai Hansen's swinging hips and scintillating licks.
Another worrying trend i've noticed an emerging echelon of so-called "intellectual" metalheads. These "scholars of metal" are worried that their burgeoning intelligence and aesthetic reception is being undermined by a faceless "elite" cadre of "proper" music afficionados. So to soothe their insecurities, they have concocted yet another arrogant and superfluous adjective to flex their largely imaginary cerebral muscle - the word in question is post-metal. Post-metal, to me, is not a genre but an unsightly and vacuous buzzword. It is merely a ruse conjured up by a certain group of metalheads to gather themselves into an exclusive clique and to isolate others. (Yet another case of narcissism of minor difference.) These few are so proccupied with differentiating themselves from the false images of idiocy and boorishness that mainstream media circulate about heavy metal and the scene in general, they have resorted to pontificating on high about how amazing and culturally advanced their beloved "new" genre is. They threaten to transform the scene into a pretentious, self-aggrandizing mockery - much like the horrible, horrible Radiohead and shitty derivatives who are all worshipped by a soulless cult of tonedeaf Bohemian artsy wanker types. I fear that soon i'll see metalheads wearing berets and sipping lattes outside art galleries and that's exactly when I'll begin digging my own grave. One of the many reasons I got into metal was to avoid such obvious self-flattery. Isis, Agalloch, Cult of Luna, Sunn O))) - yes, they have post-rock influences in their music. Great. I cannot deny that. I even dig some of those bands myself. But to needlessly "invent" a term to appear more "academic" and "sophisticated" than your peers - that's just arrogant. Post-Black Metal I can understand. Post-metal? ...ridiculous. Post-rock was a bullshit genre to start with...
Oh yes, two discs, one old, one new, something silver and something...metal.
Fresh Cut: Noumena - Anatomy of Life
Rejoice, Finland! Not since Mr. Lordi graced the stage in Athens (and those two perky reporters from Finnish TV who attempted blend in by shouting random hellenic phrases at the audience) have I had so much admiration for my northenmost bretheren. Immediately from the first track, this disc hooks you in and straps you down for a thrilling ride of expertly crafted melody and muscular rhythms. Interplay between high, low and guttural vocals walking effortlessly between walls of melancholic textures is cause for celebration inside your ears. Every track is builds upon it's predecessor, climbing once thought unscalable heights in excellence for Finnish melodic death metal. They go the extra mile - adding a guitar line here, an extra burst of choir there. It reminds me of the very first wave of Swedish melodic death - At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames being the obvious starting points. It has that once forgotten romantic entanglement with the light and dark - being melody and aggression - all gracefully exhibited on this disc. Along with Insomnium, Mors Principium Est and Enter My Silence, Noumena have captured the throne from their Swedish counterparts - that is, until the next Dark Tranquillity record is unleashed, haha!
Old Wound: Edge of Sanity - Purgatory Afterglow
I'm almost half convinced that this disc is where the entire melodic extreme metal movement began - the disc that convinced Sentenced to pair clean singing with rockier, gothic style melody; the disc that gave a young Niklas Sundin and Mikael Stanne inspiration to look beyond the obvious in death metal and basically gave The End Records a steady stable of weird and eclectic bands to sign. Dan Swanö is a brilliant creative mind (like that hasn't been said before.) He meshes '60s psychedelic groove with visceral death metal (Blood-Colored), lounge style melodies with jarring rhythm (Black Tears), bridging the dynamic between doom and death by cautiously evolving his ideas (Velvet Dreams). There's not a riff that isn't tremendous or fascinating on this disc. Every song in retrospect is innovative in one form or another - even the fuzzy, buzzing guitar sound is an bold move. While not sounding authentically punk, grunge or metal, Swanö manages to shape the sound into whatever he likes like a expert sculptor. This album holds within it a blueprint for pretty much every band who strived to mix melody and brutality together. A truly mature and original metal record.
The Sentry's Playlist for January
Noumena - Anatomy of Life
Edge of Sanity - Purgatory Afterglow
Oceansize - Effloresce (not metal, but still great strong indie prog rock)
OSI - Office of Strategic Influence
Unexpect - In A Flesh Aquarium
Machinae Supremacy - Redeemer (ahh, my old C64 memories come flooding back!)
Scar Symmetry - Pitch Black Progress
Rush - 2112
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