Archive by Author

Preliminary Album Review: The Never Ending Way Of OrWarrior by Orphaned Land

25 Jan

Well, it’s the big day. 25 January 2010. After waiting six years for Israeli folk/death metallers Orphaned Land to follow their masterpiece Mabool, an album I christened one of the best metal albums of the 2000s, they have finally put out another album. The Never Ending Way Of OrWarrior (“warrior of light” in Hebrew) was originally tentatively slated for a late 2007 release, but given the band took eight years to put out Mabool after 1996’s El Norra Alila, I suppose it is just par for the course that it did not come out until now! Those of you in the US still have a tad more of a wait ahead of you: the album isn’t out there until the 9th of February.

This album is astonishingly complex and dense, both compositionally and thematically. I am currently on my fourth listen, but it is going to take longer than that for the album to fully sink in. The following represent just my earliest impressions.

Continue reading

Album Review: Contra by Vampire Weekend (again)

13 Jan

Yesterday, Ashley reviewed Contra by Vampire Weekend and inspired me to listen to it. After hearing the band’s self-titled debut from 2008, I wasn’t sure there was much hope for them. Occasionally, they showed glimpses of catchiness, but quickly ruined the show with horrendous lyrics posing as deep and thoughtful, horrendous instrumentation posing as “diversity”, and horrendous singing posing as … god knows what. But with Ashley’s review in my mind, I thought I would give Contra a chance. Could Vampire Weekend redeem themselves?

Continue reading

Concert Review: Cynic live in Melbourne, 3 January 2010

13 Jan

If I were writing in 2006, I would be telling you about how Cynic released the definitive technical death metal album, Focus, in 1993 and then disbanded. Along with Atheist and Death, Cynic were one of the most outstanding members of the late 1980s/early 1990s death metal scene in Florida, and pushed the limits of metal more than any. Focus incorporated compositional techniques drawn from genres well beyond metal, primarily jazz, and thematically it was a positive, uplifting, and humble album, lyrically infused philosophic meditations and spiritual mysticism.

Moreover, out of all the wildly technical metal bands going around, I would consider Cynic to be easily one of the most listenable, possessing a fluid style led by astonishingly complex guitars woven together into a vivid fabric, buttressed by Sean Malone’s warm and full bass, and resting on Sean Reinert’s skilful drumming. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget how all the clean vocals of Paul Masvidal were processed through a vocoder, giving the band a distinctively synthesised and robotic sound.

That is everything I would have told you in 2006. Cynic were done, leaving just one album and a collection of demos as their deeply influential legacy.

Cynic - Focus cover

However, this is 2010.

Continue reading

Album Review: Astro Coast by Surfer Blood

12 Jan

Cover of Surfer Blood - Astro Coast

Just about every review of Surfer Blood’s debut, Astro Coast, due out on the 19th of January, seems to mention “lo-fi”. Oh shit, now I’ve done it. But I’d like to make a point! Anybody who is labelling this “lo-fi” has clearly never listened to actual lo-fi music. Sure, this may have been recorded in the band members’ dormitory room, but you’d never know by the sound of it. Get back to me once you’ve listened to some of the early Dunedin releases, e.g. the Dunedin Double EP (The Chills, The Verlaines, The Stones, and Sneaky Feelings), The Clean’s early singles, The Rip’s A Timeless Piece, and The Weeds’ Wheatfields 7″ single, or for that matter go north to Wellington DIY anarcho-punks Riot 111. Then you might know what you’re talking about.

“So, Ax,” you say, “now that you’ve established how well you’re settling in as An Ocean Of Noise’s resident grumpy crank, what does Astro Coast sound like? How many strips are you going to tear off it?”

Not many, actually.

Continue reading

Catching up on Concert Reviews III: The Church live in Melbourne, 5 December 2009

12 Jan

The third concert I’ve been slack about reviewing was The Church, supported by The Kicks and Astreetlightsong, at the Corner Hotel in Richmond on 5 December 2009. I have one more review up my sleeve, but it’s for a concert sufficiently recent that I can pass it off without claiming to be catching up (phew!).

Continue reading

Catching up on Concert Reviews II: Mono and Laura live in Melbourne, 4 December 2009

11 Jan

2007 was a terrible year for me and concerts. At the start of the year, I had just moved to Melbourne and was bleeding money, so live music was out of the question – consequently, I missed the last gig ever by Arcturus. Later in the year, I had nobody to accompany me to a couple of concerts and in a bout of shyness convinced myself they really didn’t matter that much when they did. Luckily, some of the bands I missed due to poverty and irrational shyness have decided to return to Australian shores. Isis are coming in February this year, and Mono returned in December 2009. Now all I need is for Pelican to come back.

Mono are Japan’s finest post-rock export. I actually don’t listen to them with any tremendous frequency; I need to be in the right mood for their pretty, wandering compositions. However, I think they’re very good at what they do, and when I heard they were returning, I was all for rectifying one of my 2007 mistakes, especially as Mono have quite the live reputation. Then I discovered that support would come from none other than Laura, Melbourne’s finest post-rock band. I would call them Australia’s finest post-rock band, but Sydney’s Sleepmakeswaves are just as worthy of that distinction. So as it happened, as much as I wanted to see Mono, I was going even more for Laura.

Continue reading

Catching up on Concert Reviews: Boom Crash Opera live in Melbourne, 3 December 2009

10 Jan

Since I reviewed Opeth back in November, I’ve been to four more concerts. Do you think I’ve taken the time to review them until now? Of course not. I am a quintessential slacker sometimes.

Let’s do something about that – by reviewing something totally removed from Opeth.

Boom Crash Opera supported by Taxiride and Tin Alley at the Corner Hotel, Richmond, Victoria on 3 December 2009

One of my friends has been a fan of Aussie pop-rockers Boom Crash Opera (BCO) for quite some time, but had always been thwarted out of seeing them in concert. I figured it was time something was done about that, and accordingly bought tickets for us to see this show. After all, I don’t mind their music myself. When they had a good hook, they really nailed it and put out some memorable, infectious singles in the late eighties. Once, they even stumbled upon a truly sensational hook, and consequently their entire output has lived in the shadows of Dancing In The Storm:

Nowadays, they look rather older than they do in that admittedly terrible video. However, they still have their sound together, and as pretty much a nostalgia act nowadays, you know you’re in for a lot of the stuff on their Best Of compilation. As it happened, BCO played their best tracks, their worst tracks, and a good selection of those in between.

Continue reading

Overlooked in 2009

10 Jan

I don’t tend to expect my favourite albums to show up on many end-of-year lists. They’re niche-audience sort of stuff. However, sometimes – only occasionally, but sometimes – there are albums I love that otherwise seem to go totally ignored and fail to appear on said lists when I would fully expect them to show up.

I understand it when the metal albums I write about in gushing, hyperbolic tones get ignored. Metal, it seems, is not quite for everyone – an acquired taste, and a taste I’m convinced more people would acquire if they would just put aside a few stereotypes. I get it when the post-rock albums that totally enchant me are ignored. Apparently some people out there don’t have the attention span for lengthy compositions, or seem to think music just isn’t music without some guy singing D-grade poetry or worse. I know, I know. I’m a cranky arsehole destined to have marginal tastes. I’m destined to sit around with my Agalloch, my Russian Circles, my Isis, my Wolves In The Throne Room, and my Long Distance Calling, all the while wondering why people rate mediocrities such as Radiohead, Animal Collective, and Arcade Fire tremendously highly (yes, I am aware John took this blog’s name from Arcade Fire; he made me an admin so I’ve forgiven him).

But there are times when my tastes cross over. The early 2010 buzz seems keen on Surfer Blood’s Astro Coast; I’m enjoying it myself. Back in 2008, I dug a good few songs from Fleet Foxes despite all expectations. Explosions In The Sky are one of the few post-rock bands that get recognition, and I would happily rank The Earth Is Not A Cold, Dead Place in my top thirty albums of the 2000s. Even Porcupine Tree, my favourite band, have been starting to break beyond prog and metal fans in the last few years. So sometimes I’ll hear an album, think “this is great!”, and then assume it must be all the rage. Then I log onto Rate Your Music or cruise the blogosphere or check end-of-year lists and find … nothing.

Here are three of those 2009 albums.
Continue reading

Thoughts on ranking music

8 Jan

During October and November, a trickle of publications began releasing their Best Of 2009 and Best Of The 2000s album lists. Every indie hipster and every person who likes to bash indie hipsters closely followed Pitchfork’s chart, to know (in the case of the former) what to revere to great exaggerated heights or to know (in the case of the latter) what to deride without even listening. Every other chart was dug up pretty much simply to mock. By December, the trickle had turned into a flood. By late December, every man, his dog, and even a couple of contributors to An Ocean Of Noise had jumped the gun and were proclaiming the best albums as if 2009 were being terribly impolite by not bringing itself to a close already.

Continue reading