Friday, June 29, 2012

Witchsorrow - God Curse Us

Witchsorrow are a British doom group who formed in 2006. This is their second full-length album, following their 2010 self-titled debut. I had heard the band's name before, but this was the first time I actually gave them a listen.

These guys clearly draw their sound from some of the UK's biggest doom acts. The drumming, like on most doom albums, is solid but unremarkable in its supporting role. The fuzzy, crushing guitar and bass riffs sound a great deal like the mighty Electric Wizard during many stretches, though Witchsorrow do not confine themselves exclusively to ultra-slow tempos. The vocals, on the other hand, may be the closest thing I've heard to Lee Dorrian's guttural retching on Cathedral's doom masterpiece Forest of Equilibrium. That can be a big turn-off for some listeners, as I know Dorrian was always kind of a love-him-or-hate-him vocalist, so I imagine the same will be true for this record. Personally, I love it. There are slow, semi-sung spoken parts as well, which add a nice touch of atmosphere to tracks like Meggido. That song also puts off a pretty strong Black Sabbath vibe, which is of course quite natural.

Now, I did mention that the tempos on this album are not exclusively super sluggish. While that is true, the bulk of the album does move very slowly. The really obvious exception is "Breaking the Lore", easily the shortest track at around 4 1/2 minutes and one of the most obvious puns on a classic metal title since And Justice For Ya'll.

I don't feel like this album introduces much in the way of new elements to the doom spectrum. What it does do, very effectively, is pull in influences from several of the best doom acts to ever emerge from the British Isles and combine them into a predictably excellent sounding whole. In the end, I don't even care whether or not this is particularly unique, because it sounds so fantastic.

Grade: A
Whenever I pick up a new doom record, this is exactly how I hope it will sound.

Black Breath - Sentenced to Life

Black Breath are a relatively new outfit from Seattle. Sentenced to Life is their second full-length album, and it is also my first encounter with the band.

I've noticed some disagreement over how exactly this band should be labeled. Crust punk, thrash, and death metal seem to be the prime contenders, so to a certain extent the band sits on an intersection of those three. I'm personally most inclined to say death metal, but that's just me. Fortunately, this difficult-to-classify sound is not so much the product of mixing several separate elements as it is the result of a band whose sound hearkens back to the early days of groups like Possessed when death metal had not yet fully clawed its way free from its thrash roots.The crunching guitar frequently employs the oh-so-famous Swedish buzzsaw tone of Entombed et al. This is not constant, though it crops up pretty often. The drumming is rock solid and paces the music well, not really going into extended double-bass pounding but instead maintaining a more varied approach.

In my opinion the great strength of this group is their vocalist. His hoarsely bellowed assault has real intensity, and remains understandable at least part of the time. Like the rest of the band, the vocals are an echo of the early death metal groups who really shouted and attacked with their voices rather than relying on deep cookie monster growls to make them sound tough and scary in the absence of genuine energy.

You probably think, from the way I've described this album, that lack of originality is its big weakness. Well you'd be right to some degree, but mostly that's because apart from its somewhat "retro" sound, the album doesn't really have any noticeable flaws. And while it does sound very much like it should have been released a couple decades ago, it doesn't come across as a clone or a copy. The group has its own personality, the songs are distinct, and they mix in just enough proto-death to keep their album from sounding like the bulk of the new old-school imitators. Unlike many other bands that employ the buzzsaw, I don't feel like I might as well be listening to Dismember. That's a refreshing statement to be able to make.

Grade: A-
Very strong thrash/crust/death metal (mostly death metal) album from an up and coming band. Rooted in the classics but not bound by them. I really enjoyed this and I hope to hear more from them in the future.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fisherman's Death - The Code

A while back, I posted a short blurb about an EP by a folksy death metal outfit from Sweden called Fisherman's Death. Well they noticed my short article, and sent me a link to their new full-length. I've been sidetracked and I've neglected this blog for the past few weeks, so I'm just now getting around to writing up this review of The Code.

First off, the songs on that EP, "Among the Shore", appear in fresh recordings on this album as well. The newer production is a minor improvement, with some of the instrumentation coming through a little more clearly than it had on the prior versions. It's not a night-and-day difference, but though, so if you happen to have the EP those songs won't really be a big upgrade for you.

Now, on to this album. The music does have a bit of a folk flair, but contrary to its Metal Archives entry I'd be inclined to call this melodic death metal. It's well performed, reasonably tight, and it retains enough grit to still warrant the "death" in its label. The music has a good flow to it, and I found myself really getting into it as the album progressed. The band have struck up an appropriate balance between heaviness and melody that can be hard for young groups (they formed in 2009) to find. Infectiously catchy lead riffs propel the songs forward, with drumming that compliments the music rather than than just attempting to pummel the listener into submission. The vocals are good too: I like death growls that are articulate enough to understand. In that respect, the vocals remind me a bit of listening to Bloodbath.

On the down side, the music does pull enough from the history of Swedish death metal that most listeners won't find the overall sound terribly original. The band alleviates that issue to some extent by putting a new twist on their lyrical subject, though. Rather than focusing on the same Viking raids, warfare, and Norse mythology as droves of their countrymen, these Swedes instead sing about the seafaring struggles of the common fishermen who have filled their coastal villages for centuries. Some people don't care enough about lyrics in metal to be swayed by this, but personally I enjoy their use of a fresh subject matter that still has deep roots in the band's national heritage.

Grade: B+
The music is good, enjoyable Swedish death metal with just enough of a twist to differentiate it from the crowd, but with a sound still firmly rooted in that nation's classic death metal material.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Non-Metal Cover

As is probably evident from my lack of recent posts here, I haven't been doing a lot on terms of hunting down new metal over the past couple weeks. Partially, it is because I've been otherwise occupied. Partially it's because I've been going through a bit of a non-metal phase, as I am periodically prone to do. Between the two, I really have slacked off in terms of this blog, and if I'm being totally honest I have to admit that the present inactivity may well carry on for a while. Still, I do like to post things that are of interest to me, and I recently came across just such a thing. I am not a particularly active follower of my family's activities online.

I do poke around every now and then, though, and a conversation I had today with one of my younger brothers lead me to his YouTube channel. There, I saw that he had recorded and uploaded a couple acoustic cover songs several months ago. This was actually rather exciting for me, since although he is a good guitarist and I've heard him play thousands of times, he typically avoids singing as much as possible. Anyway, I really liked the sound of these recordings, so I decided to put one up here. So if you feel like hearing something that isn't metal but that I like, here you go.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Drive

I am presently at my parents' house, where I'll likely be spending a while. I've been occupied enough around here that I haven't been digging into music very actively. I did get a link to the new Fisherman's Death album sent to me by the band, and I'll hopefully get a review of that up in the next few days. Other than that, though, I honestly don't have much lined up for the next week or so.

Monday, June 4, 2012

RIP Dominion, and Thank-You Ross

I've mentioned once or twice on this blog that for several years my brothers and I have played an online, text-based, strategy war game called Dominion. Over the years the player-base has continued to shrink, and attempts to revitalize it were of no avail. Today, the game's creator and administrator Ross officially announced that the game is shutting down. Round 74, which just completed, will be the final round of Dominion ever played.

I know 74 rounds may not sound long on the surface, but each round lasted for 50 days (with a few days off in between rounds), so when you crunch those numbers you'll see that those who came to the game in its early days have been playing it for quite a while. Personally I played my first round about 8 years ago, and though I've taken breaks from play I've been a relatively consistent member of the community since then.

And that community, that's what really stood out about the game. Because of its slow and cooperative nature, its simple and accessible message board, and its relatively selective appeal the game developed a very familiar and interconnected community of players from around the world. In its final rounds, the total player-base was down to just a few hundred people, so unlike bigger games the majority of the active players and message board participants actually recognized one another on an individual basis. And on top of that, players could form packs before each round, with up to 6 individuals working together, so most of us came to know several other people much better through the close and continuous interaction that packing brought with it. Many of us have become friends on Facebook, met up in real life, or more. And we've all shared hours of conversation with numerous other players, based originally around shared experiences within the game, but growing into genuine exchanges of ideas and beliefs from our own personal lives. One girl, who my brother knew in college, actually met her current husband through Dominion (interestingly he was roommates with one of my brother's pack-mates). Several others have dated other players, or visited them in foreign countries.

It's hard to convey what a sense of loss comes with the end of this game. I've spent thousands of hours over the better part of a decade talking about it, playing it, developing strategies, conversing on the message boards, browsing through Valhalla (the player history rankings), reading the wiki, or talking to other players on irc, Yahoo IM, or Facebook. The game had its own lexicon, its own running jokes, and its own shared history. Talking about those dirty, cheating BGs, or laughing about rainbow builds and scary chickens, or the traditional "DE are overpowered" thread at the start of every round are all little things that mean nothing to the rest of the world but were part of the everyday life of those few who shared in this little adventure. While I'm sure I'll still communicate from time to time with some of those other people, the pillar of our community no longer stands. And the gameplay itself is no longer there. No more time spent deciding how many diamond mines to build. No more logging in at 3am to make sure I had Ares Call and Midas Touch active. No more panicking about last-minute spec-pumps from that huge troll in Realm #39. It's all over now, and I'm going to miss it.

Now I realize that most of you reading this are probably thinking "Woah dude, it's just a game. Getting a little obsessive, don't you think?" It's true, Dominion was only a game. And it's possible that I am being a little obsessive. But it was a game that occupied a special little part of my life for years, and I know for a fact that there are other people who feel exactly the same way I do about it. Now that it's gone it feels like moving away from all the people you know in your old town and from the house that, though inanimate, has become a very real part of your life. I guess right now I'm in that stage where you walk around in the empty shell, all the furniture now packed up and gone, and say goodbye one last time to that kitchen cupboard you always seemed to bang your head into. Goodbye Dominion, and seRiously... thanks for all the memories.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Reviews and Corrections April-May

I try to post these on the last day of the month, but I forgot to put this up last night so instead I'll just do it this morning. There isn't too much to include anyway.


Amberian Dawn - Circus Black (neoclassical power metal, Grade: C+)
Cannibal Corpse - Torture (death metal, Grade: A-)
Reverence - The Asthenic Ascension (industrial black metal, Grade: B)
Saint Vitus - Lillie: F-65 (doom metal, Grade: B+)
Wodensthrone - Curse (Viking/pagan/black metal, Grade: A-)

April Corrections:


(A) means I loved this album. An album does not have to be absolutely perfect to get an "A" grade from me, but it does need to really stand out as something special.

(A-) means the album was excellent, and I really enjoyed it. There are just a few flaws which stop me from giving it the top grade.

(B+) means the album was very good. Usually this grade means it was an otherwise fantastic album with one major flaw that I couldn't get past, or it was very strong but lacked the real "it factor" impact of a great album.

(B) means it was a good, solid album.

(B-) means it was a good solid album, but I have a gripe of some kind with it.

(C+) means this was an okay album, nothing worth going out of your way to get.

(C) means the album was mediocre.

(C-) means the album was weak, but not offensively bad.

(D+) means the album was pretty bad, but it had some small redeeming factor.

(D) means the album was bad.

(D-) means the album was really bad.

(F) means the album was absolutely horrible and I hated it. I would play it on a loop to torture my enemies.

Ramble About Moral Relativism

If the course of doing some random online reading, I happened across the Wikipedia article about age of consent reform. It got me thinking, and I eventually posted a long babbling status update about it on my Facebook. Well, because I was obviously interested enough in the idea to take the time to prattle on about it, I decided I'd go ahead and share my post with those of you who read this blog. The quote at the top is taken from the article.


"In the USA in the 1890s, most states had an age of consent of 10–12 with Delaware setting its age of consent at 7. In 1895, it was still 7. However, feminists and children's rights activists began advocating raising the age of consent to 16 wanting to ultimately raise it to 18 and by 1920 almost all states had raised their age of consent to 16 or 18."

It's amazing to think that something as incredibly wrong in our eyes as an adult sleeping with a 7 year old was actually legal in this very country barely over 100 years ago. Just let that sink in for a minute. We all like to believe that certain moral codes and values are fundamental to human society, but it's worth considering how quickly our ideas about what really is fundamentally right and wrong can change. If our thoughts could alter so drastically and strongly (I assume most of you are as disgusted by the idea of sleeping with a 2nd grader as I am) in just a few generations, imagine the moral world that our great-grandchildren will inhabit. We may not even be able to recognize it. Then consider the fact that they'll be no more morally bankrupt for making those changes then we are for making ours. Something you do today, without even a second thought, may be considered morally reprehensible in just a few decades.

When you put this into the context of thousands of years of human society spread out all over the globe, asserting that the ideals you grew up with are in any way fundamental to the basic human condition seems laughably ignorant. I'm not advocating that we all abandon our moral codes, since morally cooperative behavior is essential to human society. What I am saying is we should stop to think sometimes about how these ideas are artificially imposed rather than instinctively rooted in us. Realizing that simple fact makes it rather easy to understand that another person can disagree fervently with us on deeply important moral issues, yet be no worse of a person than we are. They simply have a different pattern of artificially imposed rules which they hold just as firmly as I hold mine or you hold yours. Like a blueprint, there are a million ways to design a house. And as long as it serves the same basic functions, it's still a perfectly good house regardless of how different it may look from ours.