Monday, 14 March 2016

SON OF A WITCH - Thrones in the Sky

Illustrations by Ars Moriendee and Design by Gustavo Rocha.
Alright, it's Sunday night, I'm drunk, feelin' good. This was my one day off this week and now it's time to settle down with a little previously unheard tuneage. What do we got here ... ah, Son of a Witch! South American band. First full-length album. Lotsa long songs, 4 of 5 over 10 minutes. Looks good, perfect for where my head is at. I remember them from a 2012 EP they released. Without going back and replaying it, I remember them as a band with a jammy kind of sound. Not really psychedelic, but expansive. We'll call it breathing room doom. I'm just about ready to roll, let's do this. Press play and awaaaaay we go ...

THRONES IN THE SKY - Nice opening. Good riff, nice pounding crash. This is enormous ... Alright, I'm feelin' good but let's not pass judgment too quickly. Good break down and tight rebuild. Echoey vocals. I'm flyin'. Fuck this is a good track. 7 more minutes to go and we've got a slow jam part. Shades of Iron Man. My mind wanders ... Since Halloween I've been on a #nowanks movement and it's changed my life. I feel better than I have in years, maybe ever. I'm more assertive, more direct. I feel like a man again and more than that, I feel like a human being again. I make direct eye contact and hold it without discomfort. What I'm saying is, I feel strong and I owe it all to quitting wanking. Oh, I think I can put my finger on this tune. With the huge riff and echoey vocals it reminds me of Sons of Otis at their expansive best. Two minutes left. This thing is ending on an anthemic note with the repeated refrain. Excellent opening move. Let's see what we've got next.

ALPHA OMEGA ASTRA - Almost a Radar Love feel to the start of this track. I'm expecting double time on the snare up next. But it spills like oil into a main riff. You don't really see a move like that coming when something's that pausey. Ah, a break down ... and onto the main drag. Nice primary riff. Fuck, I think I'm fully sold on this album. Ho-lee fuck, this is some kick ass shit. Not to downplay Son of a Witch themselves but this one's got a Sons of Otis meets Church of Misery swagger to it. Nicely done. Any fan of the riff would be proud to blast this out their windows. And a sudden tempo shift. I'm in love. Lots of changes in this one. 6 minutes into a 12 minute monster and I'm still engaged. I think we're into a jammy part. Yeah, this week I've been thinking about the two different types of musicians. There's the cool beardo / hipster musician, who I'm worried I don't really get along with all too well and the nerdy, ponytail sporting musician who is more my natural ally. I was thinking about who I'd rather sit down and have a cup of tea with: Robert Plant in his prime or Geddy Lee at the height of Rush's fame ... I got to go with Geddy Lee. No question. You just feel like he wouldn't feel like he has some better place he needs to be and he'd be more into talking about whatever weird shit pops into your head. "Martians: green skinned or red skinned, what makes more sense?" I don't know. I don't know what the fuck I'd talk to either of those two guys about but I can't help but feel talking to Geddy Lee would be more interesting. We've been around the world here with this song and now we're chunking back into the main riff. Two songs in and I'm into it, man.

FAR AWAY FROM DREAMING (Giant Spheres & Humanoids) - Shortest track on the album and it's still almost 9 minutes long. Good start though. Bit of a laidback vibe in a heavy way. Transitioning into a Church of Misery meets classic-era Down mode. Another solid riff. Drifting off into space now ... floating ... and crashing back down. Finally checked out that bar across the street that's been there about two solid years now. I don't know, it's too busy and wild on the weekends. By the way, the bar is used as a regular set or exterior on the show Lucifer, I don't know which cause I've never watched it and probably never will. The bar is called the Union Jack if that rings a bell to anyone who's ever seen it. Whatever. Pretty cool place. I remember when it was a full-on raging dive bar so it's weird it looks the same inside with maybe a slightly improved atmosphere and far fewer winos and junkies. Holy shit, yeah about 6 minutes in and we've definitely hit on some Down vibes with the vocals, if not the music. Not my favorite on the album so far, but another solid tune. At this point I think I'm just spoiled to be honest because this might be the standout tune on any number of albums. Drummer does a good job of keeping things live and moving, but maybe gets out of a good situation a little too early if you know what I mean. He brings the excitement up to a peak but only for a bar, he doesn't let it breathe and flow.

NEW MONSTER - Okay, I'm definitely spoiled. We're a half hour in, just listened to three great tunes, let our minds wander and on pops another cool track and I've got next to nothing to say about it. Another cool riff. Not bad at all. But now I'm wondering if this had been the second track and Alpha Omega Astra had been in fourth spot would I be unimpressed with that one? It's a valid question. You can sometimes have too much of a good thing. At this point I'm thinking about the empties in my apartment and how I should either cash 'em out this week or leave 'em for the bums in the alley, one or the other. And you know something, it's not the band's fault, it's mine. I'm a big spoiled baby of a music fan at this point. This song has got some good rock n roll moves in it. Two and a half minutes in and we come to a nice bridge. This album is stuffed with riffs. Not Master of Reality level perhaps, but these guys don't quit. It's impressive really and it's just hit me how well this album is recorded and mixed. Clean but organic might be the best way to describe it. And that sudden change again. Yeah, this tune is at least on par with the first two. I'm thinking about the next couple film things my buddies and I have to shoot on weekends. I'm excited about what we're doing but nervous that I won't be able to hit my self-imposed deadlines. You'll see what we've been up to soon enough ... I hope! Fucking great tune this is! My buddy Chris Smith and I were talking about the Metallica song Shortest Straw at work this past week and I still haven't listened to it. Got to keep a mental note of that for after Thrones in the Sky. Haven't listened to that tune in a long time. I've had Apetite for Destruction in my head all week thinking about doing Sweet Child O Mine for Karaoke. That one and Bohemian Rhapsody. Those are good karaoke jams. Pretty excited about that. Nice finish to this one.

JUPITER COSMONAUT - Bass only intro right here. Guitar wahs in with slow drums and rattling crash. Drifting off into space again here ... then a gigantic Sabbathian riff, maybe the heaviest one on the record. This is nice. And the main riff takes shape. I think I may have hit on why I got so spoiled by this album: it's consistent. I don't think it's same-y, but just consistent in tone and structure. Instead of letting that huge pendulous doom riff play out, they whipped it into rock n roll shape. It's good stuff though. I'm not bitchin'. Speaking of consistent, the touchstones here are Sons of Otis, Church of Misery, Down and Black Sabbath. And you know what? Even a little Tombstones somehow, their early stuff, not their last two albums which we're a bit more sludgy. 6 minutes in and some brief swampy vibes here. It doesn't last, yet again. I'm a little disappointed, I gotta admit. They kind of slide in and out of swampy and flowing. Oooh, now a little jumpy thing here. This is what I was talking about with the drummer hitting on a good move and playing it out a little bit. Nice to hear, but again, like the glimpse of a ghost out of the corner of an eye, it's gone too soon. Yeah, this tunes all over the map, like it isn't sure what it wants to be. Haven't been to karaoke in over ten years. Looking forward to it. Now just have to make the night happen. I asked the waitress at the Union Jack if they did karaoke cause I thought I could hear it from my building, she said, "the house band's that bad, huh?" I nodded and said, "yup." Though if I wagered a guess, I'd imagine they were more the nerdy musician types. Funny how these things go sometimes. You can't win 'em all. The #nowanks thing is a work in progress. I'm still ironing out the kinks and finding what works for me. I've gone longer without ejaculating than I have since I was 11 years old if that doesn't creep you out too much. It's supposed to not be healthy for you to "hold it in" for too long. At this point I've got it to, you can jerk off once every two weeks. Like I said, it's about finding a balance, but so far, I like the results.

And what's more is I like this album, Thrones in the Sky. Not to sound like any more of a dick than I already have with my wild ravings, but I'm surprised how good this is. I expected a lot more loose jamming and lack of structure. This is a very well put together album. Although, as I eluded to earlier I wonder if the band didn't out-smart themselves in a few places. Don't worry about doing too much all at once, let it breathe. I mean, I understand it's been four years since their humble EP debut on bandcamp and it's true that if anything these songs sound overcooked not undercooked.

Son of a Witch on facebook


Sunday, 6 March 2016

SLASHER DAVE - Exorcisms

So, I've had a musical crush on Slasher Dave since he released his album Spookhouse back in 2013. In fact, he was one of the first of the faux horror soundtrack / synthwave artists I discovered. Truthishly, it's entirely inaccurate to call him synthwave at all as he's right up my musical alley located just around the corner from Goblin-avenue and Carpenter lane with little to none of the dance bollocks that characterize much of today's scene. He's a horror soundtrack purist, a metalhead and one hell of a synth artist. His new album Exorcisms was released by Bellyache Records in mid-February. Let's dissect it, shall we?

EXORCISMS - Right off the bat Slasher Dave gets to a nice spooky place. Demented sound. Totally warped. This is exact giallo music. Totally Argento. I get the sense straight away that this is a tone setter for the rest of the album. Different sound from what we've heard on the last two Slasher Dave albums.

INSOMNIA - Cold, wintry tone hear with the bell sounds and dark overtones. Synthwave or Horror Disco or whatever you want to call it is emerging as a popular subgenre of electronic music but it's mostly just dark dance music or even Miami Vice inspired. THIS is what I'm looking for when I dip my stubborn toes into the synthwave waters. No drums of any kind to speak of here, just a frightening or unsettling atmosphere.

DAY DREAMS - Another aspect of this subgenre that I love is picturing the missing film of these soundtracks that never were. The last two songs are all about billowing curtains bathed in light through a darkened room. Shadows move.

TRANCE LIKE STATE - It's been minutes now and we haven't heard bass or snare drums since the opening track. Slasher Dave has really taken his time here to build suspense and hammer home the possession narrative. In a way the music itself is becoming a proxy for the storyline suggested by the title. We'll see if we get delivered from evil by the end of this thing.

STRANGE BEHAVIOR - Creepy piano and a keyboard choir greet us at the front of this composition. This may be my favorite track yet. The thing about Slasher Dave is, he comes from the metal world so he's not approaching things from a spooky-fun dance-off ethic. I think he really gets what horror and the accompanying music is all about. The tragic thing about horror fanatics is that we don't get scared by horror films, we're stuck with spooking our significant others, but the music gets under our skins. Slasher Dave brings that across here better than most, maybe better than anyone I've ever heard do it.

DEVIL'S POSSESSION - Very surrealistic overtones here. Man, there must be some kind of toddler's birthday party going on in my building or the one next to me. As this surrealistic song is playing two girls start high-pitched howling in unison. Weird moment perfectly suited to the music.

THE WINDOW - Here we go. I had a feeling it was coming. The Tubular Bells moment. This is still an interesting song because it's like a what if Goblin had written Tubular Bells. Some fine giallo here especially towards the middle of the song. And wouldn't you know it, this song is called "The Window". Slasher Dave does such a great job of painting a moving picture through music that he pre-suggested that image to me by the second and third tracks in only to deliver the coup de grace here!

CRUCIFIX - One of the few longer songs on the album (nearing 4 minutes) and it's got a real Fulci or I should say Fabio Frizzi feel here with the steady pounding rhythm and choral notes. Sharp piano rides overtop with a haunting melody. This album is turning into a tour de force. A very specific feel that is totally appropriate to the subject matter. Maybe a little on the nose in fact, but that's kind of what you're looking for in something like this. If absolutely everybody was doing it on the other hand, it would be a different story.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL - At 5 and a half minutes this track is nearly twice as long as almost all the others. And as the title suggests we get our first heroic theme of the album. Finally a little relief from all this soul churning evil. This theme represents hope, I assume in the form of a priest. I'm willing to bet this guy fails by the end of it ... spoiler alert! Full disclosure: those darn kids are still making a whole lot of racket outside but not in a spooky way that suits the music anymore, so I think that's undermining my optimism here. Little call back to the opening track here, that haunted, abandoned carnival thing as I assume, the evil spirit fights back. This is more Don't Torture a Duckling than The Beyond, more giallo than pure horror. Actually, those flutey sounds are almost martial in nature which makes me wonder whether or not the heroic character on this track was intended to be a detective, rather than a priest. The hero and evil spirit wrestle for possession.

HEED OUR PRAYERS - Shit just got real dark, son. This is exactly the kind of music you don't want following you into a rain-splashed, steam-soaked, back-lit alley at night. A short track, but another real standout.

THE RITES OF EXORCISM - And now we've come to the darkest moment of all. The moment of truth. The double time melody, pitch shifting bells and Gregoran choir beneath suggest a battle and one that's not going too well. I'm amazed at Slasher Dave's ability to nail it with the stage-setting. Little spoken prayer there as the song dies out.

LEVITATION - Alright, this is cool shit. A dark and epic atmosphere. I was kind of waiting for a fast pace breakout, but we get that stomp going midtempo, which is about double time for this album.

FOREVER'S LULLABY - And a nice serene, peaceful acoustic guitar tune. It appears all is well and all will be well. And a very Goblin-esque la la la chorus. I see the little girl who was possessed lying in bed, tired from her desperate fight, but safe and sound. But I still can't shake the feeling that the parents will leave the room, the door will close behind them and the little girl's head will snap around towards the camera with glowing eyes ... Hey, that's a surprise, that final twist never comes.

And that's that. It says a lot about the current state of storytelling in movies and yes, even in music that when the final twist ending DOESN'T come it's more surprising. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing, I'll let you decide gentle reader, but if you're like me and you likes you the horror music but you don't like the danceable nature of most synthwave music, then you've just found yourself a gem of an album. And that's no twist ending either considering that Slasher Dave's previous two, 'Spookhouse' [2013] and 'Tomb of Horror' [2014] are among my favorites of the genre.

Fans of Goblin, Frizzi and indeed the entire Italian giallo ouevre will also get a great kick out of this one because Slasher Dave really picks up where those composers left off, which is using the synth as a real musical instrument and not as a drone behind a dance beat. Again, if everybody was doing this it might not be all that special, but for the nonce when Slasher Dave releases an album it's a special occasion indeed!

Slasher Dave on facebook

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