Author Archives: Denis

Serj Tankian – Jazz-iz-Christ

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Serj Tankian has recorded a jazz album. So far, so good. Serj Tankian even did a pretty interesting jazz album. And as “interesting” is a damn boring word, let me try to explain why.

I’m certainly not a specialist in jazz music, so for all you connoisseurs out there, let me know if my impressions are for the birds. First of all, Tankian invited a wide range of guest musicians (probably because he isn’t a specialist either) such as, amongst others, Tigran Hamasyan, Tom Duprey, Valeri Tolstov or Troy Zeigler, which would be the first explanation for the advanced level of Jazz-iz-Christ. Besides classic jazz influences the LP combines fusion, electro, also rock, even if it is not so obvious at first listen, and also a number of oriental influences, represented for example by sitars.

The opener Fish Don’t Scream was described somewhere as a System of a Down song in disguise, and I have to say that this an appropriate way of hearing it, especially for the returning stamping parts. One could really imagine the slower jazz melodies as a reflection of a possible Tankian singing performance. The rocking elements on this album are omnipresent without pushing to the foreground at any time. The classic guitar solo in Arpeggio Bust, for instance, is perfectly fitting to the jazzy rhythm section. Moreover, there is a very concise and pushing bass line in a handful of songs.

Besides the rock influences there are especially the electronic and/or the fusion elements that produce the main groove of Jazz-iz-Christ, which generally spoken provides a wide range of musical experiences without being overcharged at any time. Most songs are instrumental; Tankian himself, or his vocals, enter the stage in song number 7, Distant Thing, a very oppressive but chilling song in which his voice and performance perfectly fits, which counts a little less for the following  Song of Sand.

The album clearly has its depressive period towards the middle, guided by melancholic vocals and instruments, combining the feeling of drinking whisky in a dark lounge and Tankian’s typical feeling for tragedy. Jinn then picks the pace up again, being a rock song at heart, and yet very hard to categorise in terms of style. Waitomo Caves would be the next creative bastard, having a 90s electro and beat box groove dancing around the classical jazz instruments. Same as the opener, the closing song Miso Soup then again can easily be defined as being a SOAD song, and this time, to make it more obvious, Tankian takes care of the vocals.

Jazz-iz-Christ is a very enjoyable, nearly 57 minutes long piece of jazz combined with like everything one could imagine, and I think one can really hear the fun the contributors were having during the recording sessions.

Naam – Vow

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Mystic tunes welcome the listener to Vow, Naam’s second long player after their debut album in 2009 and their EP in 2012. A mix of psychedelic hard rock and stoner elements create this LP’s character throughout the 11 songs, intros and outros. The title track takes the listener for a ride on a psychedelic wave during which rapids beware the trip from being boring at any moment.

The different intros between the songs bend the bow for a very confident performance. The songs have a clear structure which doesn’t prevent the love of experimentation from being heard. The sound production is pretty raw, lacking a kind of deepness from time to time, although raw sound also is necessary for this kind of music. Finding the balance may be a challenge for further albums.

Nevertheless, lovers of psychedelic hard rock will find everything their heart could wish on Vow: spacy sounds like in Brightest Sight or in the space odyssey Beyond , hard bass lines as in On The Hour, one of my favourite songs on the album by the way, electronic organs, sitars, hard riffs, outbursts and also oppressive moments. Only the vocals may become a bit annoying as time goes on, but this may be an impression which is valid for every psych-rock record ever made, though one must say that the performance here is pretty standard.

In the end, this is a very chilling and at the same time challenging LP for those moments when the lust for Sabbath or Deep Purple grows too strong.


Denis

Bosnian Rainbows – Bosnian Rainbows

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The Mars Volta are dead, time for Omar Rodriguez Lopez to start another of his numerous personal projects. However, Bosnian Rainbows is a band in which he leaves the foreground to others, first of all Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes, escorted by keyboarder Nicci Kasper and the one-arm drummer-while-keyboarding-with-the-other-one, Deantoni Parks. All together, the quartet plays a very hypnotic mixture between pop, synthpop, postpunk and progressive rock, although the “jamy” character of the last one apparently is way more present on stage than on this self titled debut.

The playfulness and creativity in which the front singer is covered during the whole album certainly defines the band’s character. Furthermore, the love for details provides many different spaces to discover synthetic and hypnotic secrets for the lovers of the genre, not to forget beats, sound walls and effective guitars. Still, the songs always have a clear line from the beginning to the end as a base frame, even though one sometimes misses a certain step to craziness. However, this may be due to my personal love considering The Mars Volta’s unpredictability. One obviously shouldn’t compare those two bands.

Rodriguez Lopez, as already stated, pulls the strings in the background, but never loses presence at any moment. In songs like I Cry For You one can even hear a certain will to break out and let the rock guitar beat the synthies, making the song sounding like a relationship crisis between guitar genius and electronic superiority. This may sound negative at first, but in fact this is one of the strongest songs of the LP.

In others however, as already suggested, a certain courage to go further is highly missed in my ears. The songs sometimes lose themselves in synthpop hymns that every one of us has already heard over the years. Nevertheless, Omar Rodriguez Lopez has never operated a really bad project, which is still the case in 2013. For lovers of the genre, Bosnian Rainbows will certainly deliver much joy with this first album and hopefully also with future outputs.

Skincrack – …and Here Comes The Steamroller!

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In fact the steamroller comes a little slowly, but those machines aren’t really known for being race cars but for their power. Power is the quality Skincrack want to broadcast with their debut album, although the opener seems to have a few problems, being a more punkish song compared to the coming outbursts that float somewhere between punk, metal and stoner rock. Walk Away’s refrain melody nevertheless is pretty catchy before a harder riff disrupts it and leaves us with the way darker New. Sombre vocals (I guess there are two singers sharing the vocal parts on the LP) guide trough a solid rock song that doesn’t fear to combine metal-like screams with melodic parts.

One feeling that won’t vanish throughout …and Here Comes The Steamroller! concerns the impression of having heard lots of those parts already in the 90s. Cut Into Pieces then very clearly opens the metal stage for the listeners, and in the beginning you may think that a different band is screaming at you right now. Before coming to a slow end, the song is very straight, making it the strongest of all the coming outbursts in which one often gets the impression of a band trying too hard instead of just mercilessly jumping trough the wall.

The fact that even the feeling of good old grunge arises sometimes just confirms the 90s spirit mentioned above. The vocal style of the “main” vocalist (correct me if I’m wrong) unfortunately takes a lot of power away, being a roughly barking dog that would perfectly fit into an aggressive punk band.

The songs off the second half sometimes offer an impression of crudeness or portliness, which often destroys the flow of the first songs. Celebrity may be considered as an exception, displaying a similar directness as in Cut Into Pieces. The heaviness doesn’t disappear, mission “power” is at least accomplished. Skincrack seem to still be looking for their own style and there surely is much to improve considering song composition and creativity. But you can give these guys a chance in those minutes you just want to be crushed by a steamroller or something.

SADA – All Hail The Beeflords

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All Hail The Beeflords is one of those albums that seem to sound exactly like the cover looks like, or the title sounds like. The British quartet provides a dry and riff loving LP with some downs, many ups as well as many ‘Fu Manchesque’ or 90s moments.

The short opener already predetermines the direction of this almighty bull. Hard riffs, changes in tempi and songs that rear up until the climax is smashing the listener’s ears as heavy as finest stoner rock can do. The production is characterised by an authentic live sound, giving the drums another pushing trait. Yet, songs like XII Rocks never overdo the madness by slowing down the pace from time to time.

The vocals stick to the cliché, which works most of the time, although one has to say that especially the lyrics are way too platitudinous. SADA surely is a band that should be cherished for their riffs instead of their poetic deepness, to put it that way.

All Hail The Beefloards and _ are two songs that interrupt the stampede, the first one being a psychedelic Fantômas moment, the latter a kind of banal 90s ‘ballad’. Holst and Devil Woman represent the more metal-like approach of the album, giving the second half of it a different but still hard rocking feeling. Bride of Cuntenstein kind of resumes the whole idea of All Hail The Beefloards: an awesome song name, speed changes, a hundred riff ideas, psychedelic moments and bull screams.

Conclusion: a nice little piece of live sounding stoner rock for not so calm moments.

Trash Monday LXXII

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Well, I have to admit, I’ve been very lazy for this one and only typed ‘worst music video ever’ into youtube. The result though is stunning once more. I don’t even have a clue who this is, if you know let us know! And you really must watch the guest appearance at 2:09!
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EqxOvMIYMU]

Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

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As comparisons seem to be inevitable when it comes to QOTSA, let me say it right from the beginning: no, this is nothing like the self titled debut, it’s not Rated R and it surely won’t reach Songs For The Deaf. There will probably never ever be an album like one of those 3 again, take it or leave it.

…Like Clockwork is the 6th studio album from the Palm Desert rockers, the first in 6 years. Keep Your Eyes Pealed is a dark and threatening opener, unpredictable considering a potential outburst. The bass is hard and dirty, and in fact, this opener doesn’t really give a hint considering the whole LP’s sound, except for the darkness. …Like Clockwork is a very smooth album. Don’t expect any fast and heavy songs like in the past. However, the typical QOTSA sound is preserved in every minute, even if it doesn’t always seem so. The “druggy” Era Vulgaris sound as well as a few Them Crooked Vultures (and even Eagles Of Death Metal) elements are present, but not at all characterising for this record, which in its essence is the darkest, most pessimistic and most sensitive release by QOTSA so far.

Two piano ballads, pending between John Lennon and the great Mosquito Song, even found their way on the tracklist, underlining the melancholic overtone once more. But all this doesn’t mean that …Like Clockwork can’t be considered as a potential soundtrack of the summer, or that the queens totally lost their heaviness, on the contrary! If I Had A Tail is a perfect road trip track, My God Is The Sun is the hard flagship of this release and grows bigger and bigger the more you turn the volume up. Songs like Kalopsia or Smooth Sailing are hidden stars with their melodic and grooving surprising moments.

I Appear Missing (together with My God Is The Sun) embodies the obvious epic moment of …Like Clockwork, combining a western soundtrack with a powerful outflow. This album really works in its entirety. The different sound impressions may sometimes imply a feeling of incoherence, though. One question that remains is about the live compatibility. We’ll find out during this summer’s festival season.

In case you wonder if too many cooks spoil the broth I can calm your worries. Although there is a huge amount of guest contributions by, among others, Nick Oliveri, Elton John or Trent Reznor, they are mostly found in details or in the background. The most obvious and great contribution, in my eyes, can be found by Mister Reznor in Kalopsia. The performances by Joey Castillo and Dave Grohl are noteworthy, as always, but I especially want to pick out Michael Shuman who supplies a great bass play.

To return to the comparisons, and now I’m being very subjective (and as I mentioned above, one probably shouldn’t compare too much), this sounds a little like Lullabies…, but way more dangerous, and also a bit like Rated R, but less aggressive. One may even find moments of the filigree Songs For The Deaf but, like every QOTSA output, this LP has its very own character. Personally, I think this is their best release since 2002, whatever “best” means.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFca32_7YUU]

Electric Eye – Pick-up, Lift-off, Space, Time

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A nice little piece of psychedelic rock was flying trough space and time and landed on our desk. On the one hand, Electric Eyes’ ingredients are typical for the genre: warped tunes and electronic spacy sequences. On the other, the Norwegians try to build up a hard and progressive groove, which works out most of the time due to the powerful and restless drum beat throughout every song.

Pick-up, Lift-off, Space, Time starts off with 6AM, which already clearly defines the main direction of the LP, although it sometimes feels like being a bit uninspired. Geneva is one of those atmospheric songs that you may imagine being used as background soundtrack of an IMAX documentary about our dear planet Earth. Vocals and samples show up from time to time, as well as sitars and a theremin, creating an ambiance between drug trips and Star Trek.

Tangerine is the first star of this album, building up an uneasy and optimistic atmosphere at the same time, before exploding in an almost post rock like wall of destructive sound. Definitely one of the strongest moments in Pick-up, Lift-off, Space, Time, if not even the climax of this adventure.

Negative aspects? Maybe monotony. Sometimes the drum beat annoys untrained ears, which would be a problem for the whole genre. The harsh guitar sound nevertheless brings almost every song to a point in the very right moment, as for example in The Road, the shortest song with 4:10.

The forceful sound and the wall of sensory input may sometimes overcharge the listener, although this often reflects one of the major strengths of the record. The closing song is named after the band and floats nicely between Pink Floyd and Sigur Rós before putting a grooving and enjoyable end to this versatile work of psychedelic rock. Give it a try!

Cold Fur – Altamont Every Night

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Post stoner core rock something everything. It has become a popular sport to categorise certain bands and their musical style. Let’s say Cold Fur just play rough and noisy rock’n’roll, with a front singer shouting along the whole album in like 11 different ways.

Melodic guitars and more classic riffs also aren’t missing at all, making Altamont Every Night a perfect coffee substitute right from the opener. The punky Cut Of My Jib doesn’t let room to breathe, which is in fact the case for the whole arrangement of this crowd funding financed album, recorded by Steve Albini himself. There is a certain preference for recording rock music in a very raw way these days, which again perfectly fits for this kind of music. You certainly don’t want to imagine hard or stoner rock bands that sound like clean and polished boy groups.

Songs like Just Like Brian Jones combine macabre themes with a huge portion of “what do I care?” and the crazy horse on the cover looks at you saying: “not a damn!” Here we are, dead in the water, and Pigs On Holiday makes sure that any kind of revival is useless. Songs like The Shittiest Story Ever Told and Fat Vampires From Planet Wolf masterfully finalise this half an hour outburst. Needless to say that also Black Sabbath found its place between core and madness, and you may also think to have found a pinch of Refused from time to time.

A record for those mornings you want to smash your alarm clock.

Recommendations: Altamont Every Night, The Shittiest Story Ever Told, Fat Vampires From Planet Wolf