I get CDs to review in the mail now, so it's nice to know that someone's actually reading this blog. I'd like to thank the lovely folks over at Sneak Attack Media for finding this site and offering me free music, and in return I'm going to review whatever you guys send me. Hell, you took the time to put together press kits and all that, the least I can do is listen...
The Sword - Gods Of The Earth (Kemado Records; released April 1st, 2008)
This is some really heavy-ass metal. I've been listening to a lot of lo-fi stuff the last few weeks so when this happened to show up in the mail, I was like "holy shit, this is fucking heavy..." The only other metal band currently in existence that I listen to is Mastodon, and this is almost on par with that. Unless you count instrumental "metal" that I listen to (Pelican and Russian Circles). So I obviously don't know metal at all. Now the 80s shit, yeah, I have plenty of that (Maiden, Metallica, Priest, etc...) I even have some 90s stuff like Pantera, but I claim ignorance about today's metal.
In short- this is pretty good, it's easily accessible; think melodic, anthemic orchestrations over punishing drums with liberal dark china cymbal crashes. Maximum riffage without being scary. Because really heavy shit scares me; I know, I'm a pussy...
Maiden, Mother & Crone is my favorite track on here; imagine Black Sabbath and The Allman Brothers getting together over a crate of Jim Beam and a bag of the sticky-icky; it's that patented southern rock-meets-70s sludge sound all over this album. So it's no wonder that The Sword hails from Austin, TX, the most diverse music scene in these here United States.
Gods Of The Earth opens with The Sundering, starting with a nicely picked acoustic guitar arpeggio before slamming your face teeth-first into a curb, the pounding riffs are the boot to the back of your head assuring re-constructive surgery and many visits to your orthodontist. Then, as if it weren't enough- The Frost-Giant's Daughter's opening drums are enough to send the four horsemen of the apocalypse screaming away in retreat; again, this is some heavy-ass shit hearkening back to those early-80s metal bands I mentioned in the opening paragraph.
The all-encompassing term I'm looking for to describe the sub-genre of music would be Progressive Metal; it relies as much on its influences as it tries to usher itself forward into a world where metal has seen better days.
Heavy is as heavy does, and How Heavy This Axe does the most amount of damage in the shortest amount of time- it's a banger with the drums way up at the front of the mix. Fire Lances Of The Ancient Hyperzephyrians also blisters the shit out of the low-end area of the register, a rolling thunder of bass and muted power chords giving way to a meandering solo.
The White Sea is a seven-plus minute instrumental thrasher of a jam; the album's homage to Metallica's Kirk Hammett/James Hetfield Kill 'Em All era-style soloing/riffing prowess from The Sword's John D. Cronise and Kyle Shutt; resolving itself into almost a minute of feedback before the album's conclusion, a little untitled two-minute acoustic guitars and hand-drums outro.
Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10
Annuals - Wet Zoo EP (Canvasback Records; released April 1st, 2008)
Ah, the "split EP"; I miss these. Being billed as an Annuals project, it's actually three songs under their name and two from their "side-project" known as Sunfold. These youngins from Raleigh, NC construct a sunny and easy-to-listen-to brand of eclectic Americana, think early-70s AM pop-rock meeting the disciples of Wilco.
It's not a huge departure from their debut album Be He Me; eschewing the murky atmospherics and ambient touches in search of a more readily accessible sound (and possibly a request from their label's parent company, Sony; to become a more marketable retail entity.)
The opening track Sore is a gem of a ditty, both musically and lyrically it has a searching and longing tone to it. The chorus is at once rollicking and anthemic; and makes way for strings and a programmed drum pattern before delving back into the second verse.
But that's about it as far as greatness is concerned on this EP; the live song Around Your Neck is rushed through in under three minutes; lending its sound to an unfinished Shins track; maybe Annuals were hanging around the studio when James Mercer and Company were throwing out the "bad" tracks from Wincing The Night Away.
Just Stay In is a good song, not great; and I can't help to think they held back much better tracks from a forthcoming album in favor of a broader pastiche to more or less attract "everybody" into the world of Annuals.
Now the weirdness: Sunfold's two tracks. Um, this is kinda emo, dare I use that word, but I'm at a loss. This is the lead guitarist Kenny Florence's baby, and it falls somewhere between Coheed & Cambria and all that crap-rock you would hear on your local FM "modern rock" station.
I have to give Sunfold a failing grade here; it's both trite and whack, the opposite of Annuals' slightly above average grade. As for the opening three songs: 9/10, 3/10 and a 7/10; averaging out to a 6.3. Factor in Sunfold's two zeros; well, you're looking at a 3.8 overall. Ouch!
Stay tuned for more to come...