Friday, January 31, 2014

Ea - A Etilla

Ea are an enigmatic funeral doom band, presumably based in Russia, who seem to have a fair sized following as funeral doom outfits go. I'd never listened to the band before, so the release of their newest album A Etilla  earlier this month seemed like a good opportunity to give them a whirl.

This is one of those records where the entire run-time consists of a single grand, winding track. It's not necessarily a major drawback, since many funeral doom albums are meant to be listened to as a complete piece like a classical symphony, but it does mean you need to be ready to dedicate 49 minutes to sit down and listen to one song.

All the genre standards are at work here instrumentally: the deeply sluggish riffs, the choral background keyboards, the drawn-out growls, the rock-steady drumming, and the lilting clean guitar leads are all present and accounted for. Naturally, as is almost necessarily the case for such a long track, the soft/heavy dynamic is at play to maintain some sense of progression throughout the song. There are also some notable tempo shifts, and at times the pace and drumming patterns even reach the steady rhythm of a slow death metal track. These shifts in dynamic help keep the music from totally fading into the background, which it could otherwise quite easily do. The vocals are solid. The riffs are good if somewhat standard, and basically every instrument does its job correctly. Ea seem to have a firm grasp of what they're doing, and everything from the writing to the delivery to the production is solid.

Now you may have noticed that everything I've said so far is basically positive, but it's all tinged with a certain degree of reservation. That's because, at its heart, this is perfectly respectable funeral doom that simply fails to really distinguish itself. There's nothing wrong with it, but there's nothing outstanding about it either. It lacks the crushing dread of Ahab or the dark beauty of Evoken. Instead it tows the line, doing everything it's supposed to do and not one bit more. It's fairly pretty, but it's not pretty enough. It's fairly dark, but it's not dark enough. It's fairly heavy, but it's not heavy enough. Unfortunately, funeral doom is such an investment of time and patience that if a given album is not an actively rewarding listen it can feel like something of a letdown. And while I didn't dislike this record, I can't deny that I felt a little letdown that it wasn't more . . . something. Anything. Just more unique or powerful or original or distinctly remarkable in some way.

This is a perfectly acceptable introduction to what funeral doom should sound like, but personally I wouldn't suggest it as anything more than a beginner's course.

Grade: B-

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Top 25 Blues Musicians of All Time

This post is what it sounds like. I believe that many great blues musicians of the past, men and women who suffered through trial and tragedy and who are largely responsible for most of the music we have today, are tragically unknown and under-appreciated by the general public. If you listen to any branch of blues, rock, metal, pop, or rap then your favorite songs would probably never have existed without the people I'm discussing. To a lesser but still notable extent, the same is true in country, folk, and jazz. Basically, 90% of the music in the world today owes these ladies and gentlemen a debt of gratitude, yet many of them died penniless and have never received their due recognition even in death.

To that end, I've put together this little list. Of course this won't make a big impact, but if even a few people are inspired to look into some of these wonderful, passionate artists as a result of this post, then I'll consider it a success.

Oh, and because I hate to leave him off (even though I tend to see him as a rock'n'roll musician more than a blues musician) I just wanted to give honorable mention to my #26 pick, Bo Diddley.

So without further ado, here are, in my opinion:

The Top 25 Blues Musicians of All Time

#25. Hubert Sumlin (1931-2011)

Sumlin's name will be familiar to many blues fans, and his name belongs high on any list of great guitarists. Sumlin is an oddity on this list, as he is best known for playing a supporting role. He spent years playing in Howlin' Wolf's band, and as a result he seldom received the degree of individual racognition he deserved. To pioneering rock guitar gods like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, Sumlin was a hero and idol. While he is sadly no longer with us, he lived to the ripe old age of 80: long enough to appear prominently in the Crossroads Guitar Festival. Thus, even though it took far too long and was only a fraction of what he deserved, at least he didn't spend his final years languishing in total obscurity.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Responses to Articles I Don't Like

I don't post on here as often as I should. That's basically a given at this point. So naturally, since I barely employ the blog anybody actually reads, I've decided to start up an additional blog to probably neglect.

I read a lot of online articles. Like most people, I have a lot of opinions about the things I read. Also like most people, I am afflicted with the compulsion to make other people hear those opinions. To that end, I have launched the aptly titled Responses to Articles I Don't Like. I may have "borrowed" the name from a comment I saw below the first article I address. A quick online search turned up no site or blog with that name as far as I could see, so now it's mine.

Anyway, the name is about as self-explanatory as a name can be. If it sounds like something you might enjoy reading, feel free to check it out at your leisure. If not, feel free to check it out anyway and then comment on how stupid it is.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Work Schedules and Concerts

This eventually turns into a post about metal shows. But first, time for a minor, barely-justified whine.

Most of the time, I love my job. It's not hard to do, it affords me the rare ability to pay my bills while still enjoying 20+ days of free time every month, and it gives me work stories that are sometimes so good they sound fictional. On top of that, I have the best boss I could ask for, and there's plenty of room for excellent income down the line as I develop a larger skill-set and a network of professional connections. Not bad for a job I basically stumbled into accidentally.

"But . . . ?"

There is, against this backdrop of awesome, a minor caveat or two. And of course I wouldn't be a first-world citizen if I didn't complain about the glare on the deck of my beach house.

My schedule is totally unpredictable. I may or may not have a loose idea about what my work schedule should be in the weeks ahead, but it changes on a dime. This makes planning anything more than a few days in advance into a very dicey proposition, as basically all my plans are necessarily tentative. It's not even that my employer would object too strongly to me missing days of work, it's that those 8 or 9 days of work each month are too valuable to my financial stability for me to miss them.

Now like I said, this is a very minor whine in the scheme of things. I wouldn't even mention it if it weren't for the fact that I wanted to post something at least vaguely metal-related, and a recent tweak to my schedule means I won't be able to see Amon Amarth with Skeletonwitch and Enslaved later this week. I did get a consolation prize of sorts, though, when Cattle Decapitation played at a local bar called the Cheyenne Saloon this past Friday. They were touring with headliners EYEHATEGOD, but my brother and I didn't stick around for them because I was exhausted and neither of us had any interest in the band anyway. Besides, Cattle Decapitation tore it up on stage, and I was content that I had gotten more than my money's worth. A few local groups provided opening support, of whom only the doomsters Demon Lung were really worthwhile. Incidentally, they released their debut album The Hundredth Name  last summer, so if you're into female-fronted stoner doom you might give them a listen. They put on a good show.

As for the other concert I'll give my brother my ticket and he can tell me about it I guess. I'll just console myself with the knowledge that I've seen two of the three live already.

On a final closing note, this kept up my little streak, which I hope to maintain throughout the coming year. Every month, I'm trying to see at least one metal band that I've never seen live before. I'm willing to be flexible on what exactly constitutes a "metal band" but I'm excluding small local acts from this exercise (though I'm certainly seeing them too). So far the list looks like this:

Sept. 2013: Black Sabbath
Oct. 2013: Slayer
Nov. 2013: Nine Inch Nails
Dec. 2013: Mushroomhead
Jan. 2014: Cattle Decapitation