Monday, July 26, 2010

Album Review: The Ocean - Heliocentric

The Ocean: Heliocentric
Year: 2010
Click here for the artist's site

Never a group to settle for the same old thing, The Ocean (often known as The Ocean Collective) have impressed me with every album.  A mix of ambient sounds, progressive metal, classical music, electronica and post-hard core, they really are one of the more unique bands playing heavy music.

Their latest release, Heliocentric, is no different in that regards.  And yet, it is undoubtedly their most mature, focused and varied work to date.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Point-Counterpoint: My Dying Bride - 34.788%...Complete


Make no mistake about it, My Dying Bride has become, in the past year, one of my very favorite bands.  Their entire library is full of epic, amazing British doom.  Yet plunked just about right in the middle of the oeuvre is the singularly unique 34.788%...Complete.

Taken on its own, it is an interesting piece of artistic expression.  A very mellow, chill, electronic inspired take on doom metal, there is, in fact, very little doom on it.  A cursory listen reveals an album that sounds nothing like My Dying Bride.  But don't let that fool you.  Closer inspection demonstrates hidden layers of heavy, ponderous MDB riffs.

But where this album really shines is taken in the context of all their albums.  Sandwiched directly between Like Gods of the Sun, the pinnacle of their early evolution to more melodic metal, and The Light at the End of the World, their darkest, most bleak and crushing album, 34.788%...Complete truly stands out as fascinating.  What has come since this album is amazing doom metal, so I can't complain.  But this is one album to not be overlooked.

From the trippy, "Blade Runner" style interrogation (questions are asked by a female voice, in Japanese played backwards, then answered by lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe in English) in "The Whore, the Cook and the Mother", to the almost groove-metal of "Under Your Wings and Into Your Arms", the album is full of fascinating moments.  "Der Uberlebende" is the closest the album comes to doom, with a slow, dirge-like pace.  "Apocalypse Woman" is carried by a rapid, groove laden bass line.  Finally, the first song that really caught my attention was "Heroine Chic".  I find it to be the most interesting MDB song ever, with electronic percussion, spoken vocals, (almost) self-censored lyrics (listen closely with headphones to see why I say almost), a lilting female vocal over the top of it all, and moments of thunderously heavy riffs, it is just fantastic from start to finish.

Final verdict: Explore it (though I adore it, it is different and unique enough that I gotta say explore first, though you may come to adore it as well)


I think it's taken me as long as it has to counterpoint this album because I still don't know what to make of it.

I'm not as familiar with My Dying Bride as Peter is, obviously.  Before working on this article, the only exposure I'd had to them was their latest release, 2009's For Lies I Sire, which is certainly a shining example of melodic doom metal.

However, for a lot of reasons, I think 34.778% is a superior album.  As has been documented previously, I have a lot of love for well-done electronica.  (I can't stand most of the stuff they'd play in clubs and such; but when a group or artist is good at creating electronica - groups such as F*ck Buttons or Röyksopp or the inimitable Daft Punk - I can listen to it all day.)  The subtle, electronic music found intermingled here with some pretty crushing metal is very good, and helps create an ambiance that most albums of this ilk only hope to duplicate.

It really is a great album, and the more times I've listened to it, the more I've felt that way about it.

Final verdict: this surprises the heck out of me, but Adore it (at night.  In the darkness.  Hidden under your covers.)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Point-Counterpoint: Cloud Cult - The Meaning of 8


I'm not exactly sure how I found out about Cloud Cult - what website or who introduced me to the wonder of my favorite band.  (After Rush.  Of course.)  All I know is that I've loved everything they've done for half a decade now.

While my love of most indie music is something that's come about in the last year or so, even when I was in the midst of my most brütal hëavy mëtal moments of life, I've still been able to listen to Cloud Cult and find joy, honesty, and the truths of human emotions laid bare.  They're not your typical indie band, not one that you'd imagine all those hipster kids from New York listening to - there's something fundamentally different about their music, from their harmonies to their deceptively simple seeming guitar work.

The Meaning of 8 is no exception.  Until Monday of this past week when they released their newest album, Light Chasers, on their website, I would've told you it was their very best album.  It's full of catchy songs, lilting melodies, a message about overcoming and the everlasting nature of love, and it's just a wonder to behold.  Since 2000 and the passing of lead singer / guitarist / keyboarder / songwriter Craig Minowa's son, their music had tended towards melancholy, but with this release, they strike a happy balance between the sadness that's obviously still there (especially in songs such as "Your 8th Birthday", written for the boy on what would've been that day), but there's a sense of hope and faith in the future here, too.

I love this record.  It's got some of my favorite Cloud Cult tunes on it - from the unique love musings of "Chemicals Collide" to the melancholy of "Dance for the Dead" to the beautiful tragedy of "A Girl Underground" to the poignant "The Deaf Girl's Song".  It's hard to even point out one thing that's out of place on this disc - it's nineteen tracks of perfection.

Every Cloud Cult album is a listening event - and this one, specifically, is a marvel.

Final Verdict: Adore it (and pick up everything else they've ever done, too - especially their brand new one)


My brother is on a quest.  A quest to cure me from my Philistine ways.  Such it is with this latest selection.

Cloud Cult scratches the indie-but-not-dirty-hipster itch very well.  The music is slick and polished, without the need to appear rough and raw (like too much indie music).  This album is replete with happy moments without being saccharine. The music is a vehicle, not a weapon.  A vehicle to gently propel the listener on to the end.

In these ways, the album succeeds.

However, for it to succeed for the individual, you need to have that itch that needs to be scratched.  And, frankly, I don't.  It would appear I have no indie itch.  That doesn't surprise me.  So in the end, this was a brief diversion, but that is all.

Final verdict: Explore it (if you find you have an indie itch, scratch with this, not some of the other absolute dreck that is out there)