Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Valtyr - Verinen Saagat

Last year saw the debut release by Valtyr. This one-man Viking metal project comes from Italy, not exactly a prominent country in the world of Viking/pagan/folk metal. Regardless of their origin, however, this band's sound is closer to the roots of Viking metal than that of most new bands in that genre coming out of northern Europe. The tracks are generally fairly long and moderately paced, with reasonably economical use of backing atmospheric instruments and sound effects. Sole member Saverio Giove relies primarily on his guitar riffs to set the musical tone, though there are a couple songs where the keyboards emerge from the background. This works well in conjunction with chanted background vocals that sound like they could have come straight out of tracks from Windir's "Arntor". The production is just right, with enough rough edges to give the music character but enough clarity to be easily listenable. There are a few pace shifts, like the first half of the faster and more aggressive "Fallen in Blood". Fast or slow, though, the music definitely evokes cold, hostile, northern feelings and imagery. Most importantly (for me), the glossy and commercialized aesthetic so common in the modern surge of V/P/F metal (as highlighted by bands like Korpiklaani) is absent here. Don't get me wrong, I can enjoy those bands too, but there's a feeling of purity that was present on albums by Viking metal greats like Bathory and Windir that has been mostly lost in recent years. Valtyr, for me, has that same pure feeling.

As for Giove, he also appeared this year as a member of Vinterblot, and his solo black metal project Ymir has a couple releases as well. This is not his only effort in this general field. All of his recorded work has occurred in the past few years, however, rendering him as one of the most interesting new figures in this scene typically dominated by Germans, Finns, and Scandinavians.

Ultimately, I am very excited by this record. If I had heard this 2 months ago, it would easily have made my top 10 list for 2011. More importantly, it gives me a new band to watch closely. If they fulfill their promise and build on what they've already done, I believe Valtyr may be the next decade's best candidate to pick up the crown of pure Viking metal from the fallen giants Quorthon and Valfar and carry it forward into the future.

Grade: A
The overall sound of this album is fantastic. And the FEEL is even better.

p.s. I know that's 2 "A" grades in a row. That's because I haven't written reviews recently unless I really felt like the album was something special.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Glenn and Jesper?!

My brother just dropped an interesting metal story in my lap: Jesper Strömblad and Glenn Ljungström are back in action. The duo who formerly anchored the original In Flames lineup are part of a new group called The Resistance. They don't have an entry on Metal Archives yet, but there is a little demo material floating around online.

I soon learned that their vocalist is in fact Marco Aro, who did the vocals on two of The Haunted's studio albums: Made Me Do It and One Kill Wonder. That came as no surprise since, from the track I heard, they sound more like The Haunted than they do anything else. I've heard their other material sounds different than this frankly pretty unimaginative cut, but I've been unable to locate any of their other material thus far.

I find it puzzling and a bit troubling that there is info relating to this band that goes back as early as March of last year, yet there's nothing concrete I can find aside from one demo track, a members list, and a few short promos.

In any event, even though this story evidently broke a while ago, it's news to me. Here's the one song I can actually find.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck

I usually don't write about non-metal releases. However, I've really enjoyed this album, so I'm going to talk about it anyway. About a year ago I got a pre-release copy of this album from my college radio station. I set it down and for a while I forgot about it, but in the past few days I've picked it back up and found myself listening to it repeatedly.

The Mountain Goats are an indie band with just one real member, and "they" have been recording since the early 90s. This is the first album of by them that I've personally heard, but I expect I'll be looking for more soon.

This album is, though generally within the indie-folk vein, fairly diverse. Some tracks are pretty much indie pop/rock. Others are best described as "Dark Americana" (I don't know if that's a generally accepted term, but Full Metal Attorney has used it and I like the way it sounds). Others sound like what I imagine would result from the Grateful Dead covering Phil Ochs. Throughout, this definitely strikes me as a record hipsters probably really like. Despite that stigma (and yes, I do feel "hipster music" is a definite stigma) this was a rare album in that vein which I walked away from feeling extremely pleased with the experience. The changes of pace keep the album from blurring together by refocusing the listener's attention every few minutes. The lyrics are intelligent and effective while managing to stop just an eyelash short of pretentious. The structure of the music itself had that experimental indie vibe without losing the fundamental listenability of a good singer-songwriter. Most importantly, it all came together in a cohesive package: I found myself drawn in by almost every song.

Grade: A
I liked this album better than any other non-metal release I've heard in the past year.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Freezing Rain

On Friday night, we had freezing rain pour over Athens, coating the entire town in a layer of ice. Is it slippery and dangerous? Yes. Does it make nearly every outdoor task, from opening the car door to walking down the sidewalk, more difficult? Yes. However, my biggest concern has been the simple fact that it looks amazing. I went a little crazy yesterday, and I took over 100 photos of the beautiful sheet of ice covering various things around town (mostly I photographed trees). Here are a few of those pictures.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Wow, I can't remember the last time I saw such a large, unified agreement rise out of the internet. Everywhere I tried to go all day, site were blacked out in protest over the prospective internet-censoring bills. This will serve as an interesting opportunity in these somewhat turbulent times to see if the US legislature still feels any loyalty toward the public it is supposed to represent. If such a massive outcry goes unheeded, I fear what that means not only for the future of internet usage, but what it means for the course of general legislative action in this country.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dabble Dabble

I am, and always have been, one of those people who often likes to see himself as an "artist". This is completely bogus, since in order to be an artist, one needs more than ideas: one needs to be able to actually make art. Sadly, my skills in that department are somewhat lacking. Due to this artist-without-a-medium conundrum, I've dabbled over the years in pretty much every outlet one could pursue. Painting, writing (prose and poetry), drawing, music, video, photography . . . and yesterday I added sculpture to that list. Of course when I say 'sculpture' I mean it in the looser modern sense of any 3d creation rather than the classical sense (which would require that I had the room, tools, materials, and skills to shape something out of stone or clay or anything else). So instead I put my mind to work on something I was actually capable of making, and even if nobody else agrees with me, I'm happy with the product.

My original intention was to just leave it in some random public place (look out world, it's the graffiti sculptor!) but I haven't figured out where just yet. Besides, it's rainy outside so I'd probably do well to wait for a little while. It also occurs to me that since college campuses get a little worked up over security sometimes, it might get mistaken for a bomb or something and cause quite a problem. It's not that I'm opposed to kicking up shit now and then, but I'm not sure I want to cause a bomb scare either. It seems unlikely to actually happen, but I should probably keep that possibility in mind while deciding if and where to place it since most of the foot traffic nearby is around the school.

Anyway, this is what I made. I'm not going to get all pretentious and start talking about the messages or meanings or intended social commentaries to be found in it. That's not to say that there aren't any, but I'm not going to lecture anybody about them. The imagery is, in my own grossly biased opinion, loaded enough without me needing to go into any explanatory detail.

So if you like it, let me know. If you hate it, let me know. If you don't care one way or the other, let me know. If you don't want to let me know, then I guess you don't have to. I'm curious to hear opinions, though, and remember that if you think it's total crap, I invite you to tell me just that. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


So, I just became aware today of a relatively new project called "Soen" that features the wizard of the skins Martin Lopez (of Opeth fame) and Sadus bassist Steve DiGiorgio (who has also played with virtually every other metal band on the planet, including some of the greatest death metal albums ever recorded, like Autopsy's "Severed Survival" and Death's "Human").

I noticed that this new group is not listed on Metal Archives, which intrigued me. I've only heard this song so far, and while it is admittedly not terribly extreme, it certainly seems to fall under "metal" in terms of broader genre distinctions. In any case, I am quite eager to hear this when the full album is released next month. I had not expected to hear from Martin Lopez again after his departure from Opeth, since as I understand it his health has been a major issue. That makes this a pretty exciting development in my opinion.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Drinking is Metal

So, last night I was out at a local bar called The Union, with, amongst other people, Scott Hedrick from Skeletonwitch. He's a really cool, down-to-earth guy. It's nice to see that in somebody who has gained a reasonable level of success in the music industry.

On another metal related note, I finally bought Arcane Rain Fell by Draconian, so I'm looking forward to seeing if that lives up to all I've heard about it.