Football, shmootball. The Cubs have gone down in flames, thereby proving that Back To The Future Part II is a work of fiction. Here are a few albums, both good and bad, for Cub fans to slit their wrists to; or, at least, pass the time with until the new full-length from Aosoth is released.
By the way, in physics, 120 decibels is referred to as the threshold of pain, and 180 decibels is referred to, amusingly, as the threshold of death. See below.
HORNA – HENGEN TULET
With releases ranging from best-of-the-decade classics to downright awful, Horna might just be the most inconsistent band in black metal. Limited releases such as Viha Ja Viikate and the coveted split with Behexen are much sought after, while less popular EPs are left alone by even the most accomplished Finnish black metal completist (and rightfully so, seeing how the band produces about eight of these things each year). Hengen Tulet, much like many of Shatraug’s efforts, falls somewhere in the quality middle of this massive discography. The riffs, which are the things we most hope for when it comes to any of Shatraug’s bands, are certainly there even though they are sparse. Worsening matters are a sloppy production job and absolutely terrible vocals. For two albums now, Spellgoth just hasn’t contributed like Corvus did on albums such as Sanojesi Aarelle and Aania Yossa. The bottom line? When you find yourself more willing to listen to any of the last few Tankard albums as opposed to Hengen Tulet, you’ll know something is awry.
SIVYJ YAR – BURIAL SHROUDS
Burial Shrouds is the fifth full length from Russian one-man act Sivyj Yar, and if that cover art is causing a bit of a Drudkh flashback, well, the music may too, but only to a point. The legacy of Eastern European pagan black metal comes through in the mid-paced and melodic sound, high, tortured vocals, and the tendency to only go to a full barrage of blasts when absolutely necessary. But Burial Shrouds also reaches to moods that are far more rooted in France or the United States, such as the cresting, uplifting passages in “The Earth Breathes Sorrow” (a helluva track, by the way), the similarities with early Alcest on “Like a Spark We Will Vanish into the Darkness,” and nods to Agalloch all over the place. It’s that pleasant kind of variety that really isn’t so much variety as it is a smart touch of dynamics, both in terms of actual volume and mood. Combined with equally smart songwriting and top notch performances (hey, audible bass), and you get a damn fine, if not altogether mind-blowing black metal record.
42 DECIBEL – ROLLING IN TOWN
These Argentinian rockers take their name from the third verse of AC/DC’s iconic “Let There Be Rock,” which is one of Bon Scott’s few lyrical miscues. On record, the line is “One night in a club called the Shakin’ Hand / was a 42-decibel rockin’ band,” and live, that number is often changed to “92” decibels. The reason? Well, 42 decibels would sound slightly louder than a refrigerator running, or as loud as a quiet dishwasher, which isn’t particularly what you’d typically describe as “rocking.” (My dishwasher rocks a bit, but that’s because one leg isn’t seated properly. It’s also beside the point.) 42 Decibel the band owes more than their name to AC/DC – their whole aesthetic is borrowed from those Australian rock gods. But really, the end result falls in the lower tiers, somewhere alongside the underrated Rose Tattoo and the also underrated Rhino Bucket. The former’s slide guitar glory infuses “Rude And Fast,” while the latter’s raucous Bon-worship informs “Can’t Keep Control.” Still, this is a copy of a copy of a copy, and while it’s fun enough, it’s ultimately unnecessary, unless you absolutely can’t get enough boogie boozy blues-rock.
AOSOTH/ ORDER OF ORIAS – SPLIT 12″ MLP
Hot on the heels of the monstrous release of the debut album from VI, Aosoth returns with another in a series of recent splits. Teaming up with Order Of Orias from Australia, Aosoth offers up “Appendix B,” a continuation of appendices begun on a split with Kommandant from last year. A good song very much in the vein of what was heard of IV: Arrow In Heart, “Appendix B” features a mix of tempos, atmospheric dissonance, and that sense of spookiness that Aosoth excels in; undoubtedly, a teaser for what may come in the next full-length. Order Of Orias, however, steals the split with “Ruinous Hope,” a long song clocking in at nearly fourteen minutes in length. The spooky track fits in very well with the offering from Aosoth, and has a slightly murky sound with an epic sweep, plenty of atmosphere, and a slowly fading conclusion. Tracking down Inverse, Order Of Orias’ only full-length album, has reached new heights on my priority list.
OWL – AEON CULT
To paraphrase the beloved, recently lost, Yogi Berra (probably), “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about a new Zeitgeister release.” Early Owl was doom and death and ambient subterfuge; we knew we’d get each, but where and in what measure was anybody’s guess. Over the project’s course, that’s meant an hour’s even split of murky doom/death and pure ambient sprawl, a near total shift to something like industrialized early Root, and a Promethean melding of all of that into a single 25 minute track to solidify Owl’s identity. Then the latest from these Wizards of Weirdness is, as predicted, unpredictable. Aeon Cult, an EP that shucks trend by actually being brief, is three tracks of massive discordance lifted out of the muck by Christian Kolf’s inimitable howls and yowls and splayed across the cavern walls. Like a thousand years of frustration wiped clean of hope’s ambiguity and loosed on the world, Aeon Cult wonders why we even fucking bother. But of course we do, because impotence is heavier than impedance. Pure Zeitgeister.
CHILDREN OF BODOM – I WORSHIP CHAOS
This is Children Of Bodom’s ninth album, and their first since losing Roope Latvala as rhythm guitarist. Their last album, Halo Of Blood, was actually decent, and while derivative, it at least felt like it had some of the old Bodom energy in it. If you suspected that Roope might have been the element holding the band back (he was about five years older than the rest of the members), I have bad news for you. I’ve listened to I Worship Chaos many times over the last month, and I cannot remember a single fucking song on it. There’s ten of them there, it seems, and they all fit somewhere between three and five minutes. There are guitars and keyboards and drums and yelling (Alexi actually sounds quite good, which is all the positive I have to say about this), and it all sounds like something that would play in the background on a beat up boombox out in the auto bay at your local Jiffy Lube or similar location. Just inoffensive radio rock. And by “inoffensive,” I mean I’m extremely offended. I was promised chaos, and instead I got oatmeal. Don’t buy this fucking album. Don’t even listen to it.