Showing posts with label gothic metal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gothic metal. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

album review: 'heaven upside down' by marilyn manson

So here's one of the byproducts of the weird way I got into metal and industrial music: almost by accident I completely missed Marilyn Manson. Seriously, it's actually a little bizarre how until very recently I had just completely missed covering the industrial iconoclast or even hearing much of his music beyond the covers that managed to cross over - as I've said in the past, I never had an angry white boy phase, and I found goth music and culture more through symphonic metal, black metal, and early post-punk and industrial music more than the mutated hybrids that came out in the 90s and 2000s that spawned acts like Marilyn Manson. 

Now that's not saying that Manson doesn't have a place in pop culture - he most certainly does, from his 90s breakout records produced by Trent Reznor to his numerous artistic pivots throughout the early 2000s - but in retrospect you often get the impression that his image has persisted a lot longer than his music has. It's one of the reasons I actually respect his pop sensibility - if you're aware your currency is in shock value, you might as well pair it with tunes that can be pretty damn catchy that'll at least stick when all but the professionally outraged set grows up. But that's the thing: folks who grew up with Marilyn Manson did grow up, and he was still making music, and after severing ties with Interscope you could tell he was probing different territory, going for metal with Born Villain and even pivoting towards blues with The Pale Emperor, with the backing of producer and composer Tyler Bates. But I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before he pivoted back towards what made his career, and given that buzz was suggesting the political undercurrent was going to be flowing again, I figured Manson's natural gift for provocation could actually pay off here. And even if, again, I'm no big fan of the guy's music - I could easily rattle off a slew of other gothic acts that I find more potent than Marilyn Manson - I figure I might as well take a look. So, what did we unearth here?

Monday, September 25, 2017

video review: 'hiss spun' by chelsea wolfe

Well, this was haunting... really, the more I listen to this the more it gets under my skin, especially with this subject matter... chilling stuff.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN... and then I have no idea, the next vote on Patreon is bound to be pretty crazy. Stay tuned!

album review: 'hiss spun' by chelsea wolfe

So here's something I don't often talk about when it comes to artists releasing albums in a sequence that shows the sound getting progressively 'bigger'. You might start off small or frail, relying more on haunted atmosphere and fragile tunes, but as you get more of a budget or presence you might be inclined to add more instrumentation, thicken the mix depth, wrench the progressions into weirder or darker or even heavier territory.... and yet unless you're a band like Swans, eventually the excess is going to hit a breaking point and you run the risk of losing the subtleties and power that were your original strengths.

That was honestly one of my biggest concerns going into this new record from Chelsea Wolfe. The haunted gothic folk of her early records was often sparse and bleak but there was something primal and chilling about its ramshackle side that pulled me in, especially her 2011 record Apokalypsis. And while I did have some appreciation for Pain Is Beauty in its fuller, slightly more theatrical sound, I worried that something might end up getting lost... and then Abyss happened two years later. Diving straight into doom metal and noise and thunderously gritty walls of sound, if anything it felt more representative of her themes and style than Pain Is Beauty, but I wondered how she could follow it, especially as her record this year Hiss Spun looked to be doubling down. Granted, getting Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, Happy Fangs drummer Jess Gowrie, a guest appearance from post-metal band Isis' frontman Aaron Turner, and all being producer by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou showed an impressive commitment to going there, so okay, what did Chelsea Wolfe unleash with Hiss Spun?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

video review: 'delirium' by lacuna coil

Man, this pissed me off so much. I was legitimately hoping for quality here... and it did not happen at all. Gah.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

album review: 'delirium' by lacuna coil

It hasn't been easy to be a fan of Lacuna Coil.

And the sad thing is that most of the fanbase seems to be in agreement that starting with Shallow Life the gothic metal band became a less-interesting shadow of what they were. I'll be honest and say that while I got into them when I was a teenager, I would never consider Lacuna Coil one of my favourite metal acts, but throughout the late 90s and most of the 2000s they were a solid group that had potent melodies and a cohesive sound. And even if their writing has always been a little spotty, there was a lot to like about those records... and then Don Gilmore showed up. With a more commercial-leaning mix, Shallow Life was a pivot towards the mainstream that was too little, too late, and only served to alienate a fair chunk of Lacuna Coil's fans. They made a modest return with Dark Adrenaline, but by the time they released Broken Crown Halo in 2014, having booted Gilmore for Jay Baumgardner, it became apparent that the problem wasn't so much the production but by-the-numbers composition and writing. And yes, that's even with the admission that 'Die & Rise' remains one of the best songs of 2014 for taking a unique point-of-view and twisting it into a kickass song.

So one could argue Lacuna Coil needed a dramatic shake-up - and from all accounts they got it. Both guitarists and the drummer retired from the band, which led their bassist Marco Coti Zelati picking up guitar work along with new arrival Diego Cavallotti, along with hiring drummer Ryan Folden. It rapidly became clear that Lacuna Coil was heading in a new direction, and with lead-off single 'The House Of Shame'... well, they certainly got there, with chugging, borderline metalcore riffs and a much heavier focus on the growled male vocals. And... look, I'm not a metalcore fan, but I was willing to give this a try, especially considering Zelati was handling all production work in-house. So did this work?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

video review; 'abyss' by chelsea wolfe

Well, this record took way too long to cover. Brutal album, and a hard one to cover, but glad I did it.

Next up, probably Lindi Ortega. Then Melanie Martinez, Frank Turner, Jess Glynne, and apparently B.o.B. decided to drop an album from out of nowhere, so this could get interesting... stay tuned!

album review: 'abyss' by chelsea wolfe

It's weird, I think I'm simultaneously growing into and growing out of gothic music.

Because like most teenagers who listened to a lot of metal and who later went on to listen to Sisters Of Mercy, Bauhaus, Depeche Mode and The Cure, I've got more than a passing familiarity with the bleak, hollow-eyed chill of most gothic-flavoured art. And while I never really went through an angry white boy phase, I found the appropriation of religious and horror iconography, icy darkness, obsession with death, and provocative sexuality fascinating. 

But as I got older, a lot of the 'glamorous' side of goth culture lost its appeal to me - not entirely, but the more adolescent whinging that focused on brooding darkness for its own sake just got tired, and you should all know by now how I feel about nihilist art that can't innovate on the premise - just kind of gets boring after a while, to be honest. But at the same time, the gothic material that aimed higher, for something more primordial and existential, that added more texture to the tragic stories and added the ugliness of humanity to the mix... ah, now that's a lot more fascinating to me. It's one of the reasons why I've always liked Nick Cave, for instance.

But what about an act like Chelsea Wolfe, an LA singer-songwriter who began her career in lo-fi folk that added sludgy and brittle riffs and drone-saturated soundscapes to create a particularly bleak brand of music that showed up on the haunting The Grime and the Glow and the slightly cleaner but no less creepy and outright excellent album  Apokalypsis. Her 2013 album Pain Is Beauty cleaned things even further, added more strings and operatic instrumentation, and while the improvements in writing, melody, and Swans-esque crescendos definitely stood out and I really do like that album, it also left me wishing more of the grime and edge could return.

As such, you can bet I was looking forward to her next album Abyss, which reportedly was diving deeper into the howling doom metal-inspired nightmare that always lurked around the corner in her music - what did we get?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

video review: 'the human contradiction' by delain

Well, this was a bit of a disappointment, but eh, it could have been worse.

Next up, I want to talk about Pharaohe Monch's newest album, as it's given me a LOT to talk about. Stay tuned!

album review: 'the human contradiction' by delain

So recently I was watching one of the new React videos from the Fine Bros., specifically the 'YouTubers React to Babymetal'. For those of you who don't know, Babymetal is a band fusing J-pop and heavy metal, amongst other genres, and honestly, they aren't really my thing. But one of the questions the Fine Bros. asked got me thinking: would there be a way to fuse pop and metal in a way that was accessible to the mainstream public? 

Because when we look back through the Billboard Charts, the periods of time when metal has crossed over into mainstream acceptance has been thanks to rock trends of the time - the punk and post-punk movements in the 70s, hair metal in the 80s, and nu-metal and post-grunge in the 90s and 2000s. But if you were looking to skip the conventional definition of rock altogether to fuse metal and conventional pop, how might you do it?

Well in my opinion we already have something of an answer, and that lies in what I'd call the most accessible genre of metal: symphonic metal. Often featuring clean vocals, pretty and upbeat melodies, soaring choruses, this was the method I got into metal and with the commercial success of a band like Evanescence, it's proven to work. 

And if I was looking to answer one of my recent questions of 'how can I get into symphonic music', I now have an answer if you're coming from pop: Delain, the Dutch symphonic metal band formed in 2002 by former Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and who might be without a doubt the most commercially accessible symphonic metal act from a pop landscape I've ever heard. Now that's not a bad thing: I've stressed a number of times pop music is worth defending and a transitory step between the two very different genres isn't a bad thing. However, Delain also strikes me as a band that instead of effectively blending the two genres chose to water down the metal side significantly. The highest praise I can give the band is that lead vocalist Charlotte Wessels is a really good singer with a lot of emotion and range, but the melodic progressions are simplistic, the guitar solos are inexcusably basic, and the production is shallow at best. On top of that, the band often seems to have a painfully high school sensibility to the lyrics, which can make some of the self-esteem and 'social commentary' anthems come across as overwrought and lacking in nuance. And while symphonic metal lyrics are often arch or borderline-irrelevant, here the arch subject matter comes across as a bit pandering to me, and that rubs me the wrong way.

Now let me stress I don't think Delain is a bad band - but in a symphonic metal landscape that has Nightwish, Tarja, Within Temptation, Epica, and others, Delain doesn't really stand out for me. But I figured that I'd give them another chance with their newest album, The Human Contradiction - how was it?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

video review: 'broken crown halo' by lacuna coil

God, this took too long to get out my system. Damn it, I wish this was better.

Okay, Cloud Nothings, then I've got a few more hard rock and metal albums coming up, so stay tuned!

album review: 'broken crown halo' by lacuna coil

I've mentioned in the past I have a complicated relationship with gothic music.

Because despite some of the things I've mentioned in the past, I do like a large chunk of it and a lot of the bands that pioneered the format remain favourites of mine to this day. And hell, even though I never had an angry white boy phase as a teenager, I won't deny that my unironic love for symphonic metal had more than a passing fondness for goth subculture. 

But maybe it's just greater exposure, but I only tend to tolerate gothic music of certain veins in small doses, and I liken it to that friend you idolize on some level for being a badass. Sure, he's cool and dark and edgy and can take you on a wild ride, but in the end that brand of darkness either becomes too depressing or too insufferable to tolerate. It's one of the primary character arcs in Edgar Wright's movie The World's End with Simon Pegg's character, and there are a lot of elements that ring true there. Plus, I'll restate what I normally say about nihilistic artwork: if you don't switch up the formula or innovate with it beyond standard goth cliches, it can get insufferable really fast.

The funny thing is that four albums into goth metal band Lacuna Coil's career and after the star-making double punch of Comalies and Karmacode, they seemed to have a similar revelation. For me growing up, Lacuna Coil was the good version of Evanescence and while they weren't really on the same playing field as Nightwish or Within Temptation, they still had a niche I appreciated. But after four albums of pretty damn solid gothic metal, they flipped the script somewhat with their 2009 album Shallow Life, an album that still had many goth cliches but a more mainstream-accessible focus. Unfortunately, they got this thanks to producer Don Gilmore, who is most famous for working with Linkin Park, Good Charlotte, and Hollywood Undead. And honestly, while I can't say Lacuna Coil delivered any of their best material on either Shallow Life or their 2012 album Dark Adrenaline, I blame Gilmore for why those albums are nowhere near as great as their predecessors, mostly thanks to placing the guitars on the surface in the mix and dampening the melody, and moving the vocal track closer to the front. And look, the lyrics have never been Lacuna Coil's strong point, and by lessening the focus on the melody, the songs got a lot more interchangeable and considerably weaker.

Thus, I was actually enthused when I saw they had ditched Gilmore as a producer for their newest album Broken Crown Halo. And while I wasn't expecting a return to the glory days, I did hope that the band would be able to recover some of their spark. Did they pull it off?