Saturday, June 27, 2015

Two Months

Two months: that's how long it's been since my last post. I've only posted a handful of times so far this year. Honestly, I don't foresee that glacial pace changing any time terribly soon. Between how busy I've been at work, the other projects that have been consuming most of my free time, and the simple fact that I'm not listening to much metal these days I just don't have the material or inclination to keep up with any degree of metal-related posting. I'm not calling time of death just yet, but I wouldn't advise holding your breath until my next post either, since it's probably going to be a while.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday is Blues Day (#10)

It's been a good long while since I posted one of these. Well, given his recent hospitalization (he's since been discharged) I've had B.B. King on my mind a fair amount of late. Talking about his place in the blues world in any kind of detail is really too massive a topic for a lone blog post, though. He's widely considered to be the greatest blues musician of all time. Further, there's a case to be made that he's the most important guitarist of the 20th century. Numerous books and documentary films have covered his life and achievements, a notably good and recent example being B.B. King: The Life of Riley. I'd highly recommend it if you have an interest in music history.

Since this is just a short blog post and not a massive biographical volume, I'll reflect on his career in my own more succinct way, through his music. Below I've linked three versions of his first hit single, 3 O'Clock Blues. First, there's the original 1950 studio cut. Second, there's a live performance from B.B. as a mature blues master. Finally, a duet from the 2000 album Riding With The King, recorded by Eric Clapton and 75-year-old elder statesman B.B. King, just one of many examples of legendary guitarists paying tribute to the king of the blues. Enjoy.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Enslaved - In Times

It's about time I got to a metal review. So far, this year has been pretty slow on the music front for me. There's rarely a ton of really compelling metal early in the year, I wanted to take a bit of a break anyway after the year-end-list season, and in the past few months I've had sufficient real life distractions to keep me from spending much time worrying about this blog. I don't want to drift into total inactivity, though, so now it's time to get back on the horse. What better way to do that than with a new release from one of extreme metal's most respected names?

Enslaved are, in case you're new to the metal underground, a black metal band from Norway. They've been around since those early, notorious days of the scene. Over the years, though, they have evolved into an increasingly progressive entity. While some (myself included) have not always seen this progression as a positive thing in stylistic terms, the quality of their musical output has always been beyond reproach. As such, they've avoided most of the criticism most metal bands would receive upon softening their sound. Anyway, their thirteenth album In Times  hit shelves a few weeks ago, so I figured I'd give it a listen.

The basics should already be evident. As always, the musicianship is top-notch, the compositions are complex and well-thought-out, and the style maintains the balance between "black" and "progressive" quite well. If you've listened to an Enslaved album in the past decade, you've got a fairly clear picture of what to expect.

That said, I found myself consistently more engaged this time around than I did with its predecessor RIITIIR. That record was pretty and it was well-executed, but it all felt a little low-energy and dull. Though this is not appreciably "heavier" it does feel as though more energy has gone into its production. The music is more varied and interesting. The compositions are fresher. The band has become more adventurous with the progressive end of things, they've added just the tiniest dash of post-rock atmosphere here and there, and simultaneously they're making better use of their black metal edge. Granted, I've been feeling less metal-y recently, so maybe I'm just more receptive now than I was in the past, but the progressive flair is starting to grow on me.

Overall, this is just a really excellent record. I have yet to get started listening to much new material in 2015, but I can already predict with a fair degree of confidence that this album will find its way onto my year end list.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Still Not Dead

Hey, this is just my monthly "don't worry, I'm still alive" update. I've listened to virtually no new metal so far this year, so I haven't really had anything to review yet. Additionally, life has just been fairly busy, so I haven't felt the pull to get on here and do something productive with my scattered free time. I do plan to get some new material and hopefully get a couple reviews going again, but it may be another week or two before anything happens on that front.

Anyhow, just wanted to let you know I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

Friday, February 6, 2015

New Ensiferum

If you read my review of Ensiferum's last release (2012's Unsung Heroes), you'll know that I found the record . . . let's just say "underwhelming" shall we? It wasn't bad, per se, but it felt substantially weaker than the band's prior output. In spite of that hiccup, I do like them and I do look forward to new material from them. That's why I was excited to see that they had released a single in advance of their upcoming (Feb. 20th) album. I've only listened through it once, and the jury is still out, as it were. From what I hear, though, this sounds like a moderate step on the way to recovery. There's nothing too stunning about this track, and it's far from their best, but at least it doesn't feel as lifeless as  the material on their preceding album. In any case, here it is so you can decide its merits for yourselves.