Thursday, February 20, 2014

I Am Ready To Give In To The Ocean All Around My Shot Chest

Wicked Breath - Reflections & Realizations Part 1: Reflections
01. The Black | MP3 | Lyrics
02. Baptism Of Fire | MP3 | Lyrics
03. Drowning | MP3Lyrics
04. Cyan Lie | MP3 | Lyrics
05. Excruciated | MP3 | Lyrics
06. Skies | MP3 | Lyrics
07. Half-Heart | MP3
08. Allergy/Anemia | MP3 | Lyrics

All tracks + lyrics: RAR

Thank you in advance for your time. 


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

[A Day; A Record] Week 5: As Sour And Sweet Can Embrace

Faith No More - We Care A Lot (3.5/5)
Type: Studio album
Length: 34:51 (10 tracks)
Year: 1985
Country: USA
Primary genres: Alternative Metal; Alternative Rock
Secondary genres: Post-Punk; Funk Metal; Funk Rock

In the early 80's, a group by the name of Faith No More entered the San Francisco music scene. Right from the beginning the band possessed a unique blend of metal, funk and punk, with even hints of gothic music. In due time, the band would revolutionize the metal and rock universe, with the band's debut album We Care A Lot serving as the first glimpse of what was to come.

Despite its unique mixture of styles, We Care A Lot 
undeniably sounds like it was made in the '80s. The production is as modest as the production on Metallica's first studio albums, but still good enough for the different layers to be distinguished. In addition, elements of thrash metal in Jim Martin's riffing, post-punk in Roddy Bottum's keyboard work and even rap in Chuck Mosley's vocals prove that the band was influenced by what was happening around them at the time - no one else just came to think of combining all these elements into one sound.

Of course, the first two Faith No More albums are somewhat notorious because of Chuck Mosley, who fronted the band before Mike Patton came onboard. This is no surprise since the man sounds lazy and often seems to float in a totally different dimension than the rest of the band, making sounds and reaching notes that are off and in no way compliment the music. However, his status has some justification since his performance does in fact contain a lot of reckless attitude. His vocal attempts add some extra variety to the songs as they seem to borrow from both the shouts of punk and the rhythmic nature of rap. Either that or those two are just the closest you can get to describing his style that in reality may have no logical thought behind it whatsoever. While Mosley sure was original, he can get extremely irritating to listen to, while with Mike Patton you get both, the originality and the enjoyment. Not to mention how Patton can irritate you too yet in a somehow sarcastic, amusing manner.

Most of the other members weren't in their prime yet either. While Mike Bordin's drumming is intricate and musical, his performance lacks some dynamicism. His trademark beats that don't rely on steady hi-hat or cymbal hits but moreso on groovy rhythms played on the toms and the snare with a steady bass kick pattern do sound precise, but lose their meaning without slower and mellower parts. Later he could acquire this sense for class and showcase it on
 songs like Easy and Evidence. To be fair, We Care A Lot does not even contain a lot of such soft compositions. Jim Martin's riffs are not as highlighted as they would eventually be on The Real Thing, and vary from catchy and melodic ideas like in the title track to totally lackluster ones such as in The Jungle. Billy Gould brings life to the songs with his syncopated and funky bass playing but would also learn to incorporate other techniques later down the road as well as come up with more memorable bass lines.

The true high point when picking apart this album's weird but striking sound is Roddy Bottum's keyboard work. Together with Gould's bass one can sense an echo of early Duran Duran as Bottum plays often eerie yet beautiful, almost gothic-like synth parts that create a perfect night atmosphere, making parts of the album some of the bleakest musical moments in the band's entire career. There are moments when Bottum's work doesn't quite meet with what the rest of the band is doing, but his talent still shines through on songs like As The Worm Turns, that would be close to nothing without his brilliant contribution. Like everyone else, Bottum would only become a better musician, but already on this album he was able to do wonderful things.

Ultimately We Care A Lot shouldn't be compared to the four most famous Faith No More albums, for it simply does not compete in the same league with them. The band was still searching itself and despite having many interesting segments they could not write enough cohesive and natural-sounding songs yet. A couple of exceptions to this are the title track and the instrumental Pills For Breakfast, the latter of which is almost like a less developed version of Woodpecker From Mars from The Real Thing. We Care A Lot is an album that was executed amateurishly, but quite obviously planted the seed for masterpieces like Angel Dust and King For A Day... Fool For A Lifetime. Because of that, its rather fascinating collision of layers and a uniquely dark atmosphere it ends up being a trip worth taking.

Favorite track: Pills For Breakfast

Faith No More - Live At The Brixton Academy (3/5)
Type: Live album
Length: 51:05 (10 tracks)
Year: 1991
Country: USA
Primary genres: Alternative Metal; Funk Metal
Secondary genres: Rap Metal; Alternative Rock

After the mega success of The Real Thing, Faith No More had the oppurtunity to make their first ever live album, Live At The Brixton Academy. The album was crafted from a live recording conducted on April 28th, 1990, in Brixton Academy, London. 
Although the band's performance appears to have been adequate, the record feels rather unnecessary in the band's catalogue, even considering its nature as a live recording.

Generally-speaking, live situations and live albums can go one of two ways. Either the band tries to flawlessly capture the songs as they were originally written or they choose to display a different side of their material by doing special renditions or focusing on another aspect, such as feeling and energy, more than accurateness in playing. This choice isn't easy because when I personally enter a show, I expect the band to play the songs the way I know them so I can let myself completely fall into the experience. On a live album, however, especially without video, I want to hear something that distincts the live set from the studio set. Unfortunately in the case of Live At The Brixton Academy, Faith No More have chosen the more conservative way of doing things, spicying up the songs a little bit by extending some parts and doing a line or two from a song that's not their own, but that is not enough to make the album swallow me.

For once the album's flowability is good - too good, in fact. The first six tracks merge into a bland half an hour of material that sounds like Faith No More, but doesn't give the listener the sense of this band's capabilities. One explanation to the underwhelmingness is the sound, which frankly is quite a mess for an officially released live recording. The balance of the instruments is poor, with the keyboards and the guitars constantly fighting for room even though they are panned to opposite sides - something that on the studio versions was perfectly managed - while the backbone of the music, the bass and the drums, sound very thin. What's left are Mike Patton's vocals, that are often too focalized, especially considering that he was still discovering himself at this time. The crazy vocal seizures he would become known for are there, but they're not controlled, and Patton strays far from his studio performance in terms of quality. Luckily he would get rid of the use of a nasally tone and learn to use his voice more intentionally yet just as uncompromisingly by the time Angel Dust, the bands follow-up to The Real Thing, was recorded.

While it's understandable that the band's background forces probably wanted to beat the iron while it was hot, it's saddening that the only live album by a band as versatile as Faith No More would see the light of day at the point in the careers where they had risen to people's lips but were yet to make their best albums. Sure, the band had made three records in the '80s, but two of them weren't considered all that finalized. On top of this, The Real Thing is probably the band's most overrated album. A choice that contributes to the first two thirds of the album being so monotonous is the tracklisting. The band played 18 songs in total at the show - including the future hit Easy - but over a half of them were cut from the audio release. Tracks like Falling To Pieces and the Black Sabbath cover War Pigs can't justify their position on this album when the setlist included songs like As The Worm Turns, Woodpecker From Mars, The Morning After and Surprise! You're Dead, many of which are not only my favorites from their era but tracks that would've brought diversity and life into the album's disappointing re-presentation of live FNM.

The last four songs on the album, however, are truly interesting. Zombie Eaters, the true epic from The Real Thing, is almost as mezmerizing as the studio version and brings a breath of fresh air, followed by the keyboard-driven, lyrically sick yet musically oh so pretty Edge Of The World. This concludes the live portion of the album, and what's left are two studio outtakes. The first one of these is an instrumental country piece called Grade, which isn't that special compositionally but stylistically continues to bring a needed dose of variety. The closer The Cowboy Song is instead a true gem that in my opinion shouldn't have been left out from The Real Thing. The track contains rich melodies and a surprisingly melancholic feel, and despite the average production, it's a strangely comforting piece with the kind of structure and indulgence one would've hoped to sense already earlier during the album.

Favorite track: 
The Cowboy Song

Eilera - Fusion (4.5/5)
Type: Studio album
Length: 51:05 (10 tracks)
Year: 1991
Country: France; Finland
Primary genres: Folk Metal; Folk Rock
Secondary genres: Gothic Metal; Symphonic Metal; Electronic

French artist Eilera's second studio album Fusion introduced itself to me through various coincidences and clearly for a reason, for it is an album that I had been searching for a while and an instant source of inspiration. A fusion indeed, the record's sound consists of folk music - particularly that of the celtic tradition - symphonic instrumentation, industrial-esque electronic undertones and gothic atmospheres. Above it all glides the voice of a seductive angel, that plays with your heart.

In one word, Fusion is uplifting. It is an album that makes you smile no matter what kind of a person you are and what kind of a life you've living then and there, and makes you embrace yourself and what you have. All the ten tracks are dynamic, building in tension during the peaceful tranquility that sets you off to a fearless freefall, and releasing it during the epic moments in which waltzing melodies entwine and lift your soul to the mountains. It's amazing to hear how the different layers come together -  the rhythm-based guitars and bass, the undulating strings, the soulful drums, the passionate vocals - and how it doesn't become confusing, ingenuine or unsuitable for one second, with the elements complementing each other instead and overwhelming you in a wonderful way. As an entity Fusion is also incredibly cohesive, as half of the songs stand as highlights and none of the rest are particularly weak links.

Even though Eilera spices up the music with additional programming, the music remains organic-sounding through and through. Not so unexpectedly one of the core themes on the album is nature itself and how humans fit or would like to fit into it these days. Another theme is love and purely human relationships. Like everything else, the themes go hand in hand rather than walk their separate paths. The combination of lyrics and vocals creates quite the dimension, evoking feelings that range from empowerment and open sensuality to vulnerability and 
deliberation. Opposites such as femininity and masculinity are crucial to the way the album presents itself. 

Albeit the songs could have been implemented with a bit more development and less of a pop structure - more specifically the longer pieces on the second half of the record that lose the common thread a bit along the way - Fusion is still a magnificent work of art that leaves you catching for your breath. What's perhaps the best thing about the album is that it feels like it's not the peak of what this direction could lead up to. If Eilera can find the necessary creativity to stretch even futher with the same concept, she and her associates will truly bring me my heaven on Earth.

Favorite track: Fusion

Slowdive - Morningrise (3.5/5)
Type: EP
Length: 15:56 (3 tracks)
Year: 1991
Country: England
Primary genres: Shoegaze
Secondary genres: Dream Pop; Ambient Pop

Slowdive's second EP sees the group delving into even hazier territory. The three tracks included on Morningrise contain the same mysterious dream-like aura as the previous EP with effect-laden guitars and harmonic vocals backed by relaxed and far-sounding bass and drums. Even with no crucial changes, I still feel disappointed after the record reaches its stop.

If the first EP was like a dance within a romantic play where the characters had to struggle with themselves to achieve freedom of emotion, Morningrise is the part in the same play where all tensions between the voices have been lost and the storyline has become stagnant, being kept alive in a forced manner. Quite frankly, for most of the EP's duration, the vocals sound lazily done, and by that I don't mean the tempo which is and should be slow. This time there's just nothing in the semi-melodic talking that would move me. An even greater reason as to why the title track and She Calls don't succeed in their attempt to enchant me are the guitars, which have become so indistinguishable that one doesn't really know what melody or tone to follow. Needless to say, the drums and bass just play along and can't carry the compositions on their own. All of this makes falling into a dream seem difficult.

While it's possible to recognize some good melodies within the first two songs, those ideas fall short and as a whole, the songs remain rather pointless. Luckily the closing piece Losing Today takes the minimalistic structure of the first two songs but doesn't include giant walls of guitar feedback. This song is like a soothing breeze on a cold winter morning, a creator of a truly trance-like atmosphere using just a steady bass line, a heartbeat, some mystic guitar notes and calmly sighing vocals.

Even if I were to succeed in arriving to my dreamland while listening to the first two tracks on this EP, I would probably go on a pretty uneventful journey, because to me the music simply doesn't evoke the same type of inspiration as the first EP did, or the last track does. These pieces have been overdone to the point where all you hear is a mess, thus lacking all the magic and failing to excite like the song Slowdive or hypnotize like Avalyn. Losing Today redeems the EP and shows that Slowdive didn't lose their ability to record songs that can take you far away and make a small moment precious. As my exploration of the band's catalogue continues, I want to hear development of that ability even more and hope that they don't strive to overclutter the beautiful scenery the basic elements in their music create.

Favorite track: Losing Today

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Cosmo's Factory (3/5)
Type: Studio album
Length: 42:28 (11 tracks)
Year: 1970
Country: USA
Primary genres: Swamp Rock; Rock
Secondary genres: Blues Rock; Country Rock

In 1970, Creedence Clearwater Revival hit the jackpot with their fifth studio album. A diverse collection of songs with drive, Cosmo's Factory is considered a rock classic even today, which is easy to see as it ties together all of the band's strongest assets.

The record starts off with Ramble Tamble, which is by far the best piece of music on the album and probably the best CCR track ever. This song is the band's progressive masterpiece. Its instrumental middle section is a gorgeous, gracious riff that could well go on for longer than the four minutes it is played and still remain more than enjoyable. Though the rest of the album doesn't come close to the bar set by the opener, it contains a handful of well-crafted songs. The material also varies just enough to keep things fresh. - there's Travelin' Band, the dirty rock & roll cut; Ooby Dooby
the bluesy lament song (with some of the best guitar solos of the band's entire career); and Who'll Stop The Rain, the wistful ballad. Each song seems to have its own counterpart, which adds to the flow of the record, and despite the wide range of styles everything sounds like Creedence, even if John Fogerty's unmistakable voice was taken away.

As with all of the band's albums, there's plenty of stuff that could've been left out and replaced with something containing more effort. Cosmo's Factory suffers from this issue less than the group's previous material but still relies a bit too much on safe solutions and parts that should've stayed as jams at the factory.
The country rock -infused parts are the most prominent evidence of this, though I admit that this is an opinion based on my slight resentment towards the genre. The drums also bring up a negative point. There isn't much deviation between the different drum tracks and the sound of the kit is unbalanced, with the bass kick remaining very silent and the snare sometimes ringing too loud in contrast. Of course the production must be a bit unpolished on purpose to add to the music, but on certain aspects it instead takes away from what the songs could achieve.

Cosmo's Factory is a fairly cohesive entity, which is something that can't be said for most of the Creedence Clearwater Revival's albums. It feeds pleasant little doses of melodic rock and enters the mind with memorable hooks. John Fogerty reached his creative peak as a songwriter and knowing history, it happened right on time. For themselves and their fans, Creedence made a perfect record with Cosmo's Factory, but for a casual listener like me, it still lacks too much in style, ambition, originality and strikingness.

Favorite track: Ramble Tamble

Muse - Showbiz (2.5/5)
Type: Studio album
Length: 49:36 (12 tracks)
Year: 1999
Country: England
Primary genres: Alternative Rock
Secondary genres: Piano Rock

Showbiz, Muse's debut studio album, continues the same tradition than the band's other material in the way that it causes enormous frustration. No matter how much I find Muse to be a pretentious, overrated and mostly average band as a whole, I can't help but recognize and give credit to Matthew Bellamy for penning some brilliant ideas sometimes. Unfortunately, parts like the Riverside-esque bridge in the song Fillip or the cradling, melodic pre-chorus of Sober are surrounded by ridiculously awful, often overprocessed pseudo-experimental layers of sound that try to keep the pop-structured songs unpredictable and dynamic by forcing together pieces that do not fit. Due to this many of the songs on Showbiz seem very directionless, and clearly the band was still trying to decide which path to follow. In my dismay, the path they followed wasn't the one I would have hoped. It certainly wasn't the worst option either, for the lowest of the low on Showbiz is painful to listen to and really pulls down some of the highlights, like the fragile ballad Falling Down. My favorite track, the mournful Uno, isn't the most original in composition but performed adequately, making it a genuinely good song. Another big plus are the vocals, which still possess an overdramatic quality paired with bad recording technique, but surprise by being pleasantly mellow at times and thus end up being not half as irritating 
throughout the record as they would end up becoming on later Muse releases.

Favorite track: Uno

Avenged Sevenfold - Avenged Sevenfold (3.5/5)
Type: Studio album
Length: 52:59 (10 tracks)
Year: 2007
Country: USA
Primary genres: Alternative Metal
Secondary genres: Hard Rock; Heavy Metal

Avenged Sevenfold's third, self-titled studio effort is also the third album by them which I am about to hear, after the metalcore piece Waking The Fallen and the straightforward rocker Hail To The King. While I've always felt somewhat lukewarm towards the band, I've had friends who love them, and when exposed to their music, I myself have heard plenty of enjoyable stuff. Somehow it all just never fully clicked, but with this album, I feel like I'm getting close.

In some aspects, Avenged Sevenfold is like a Toxicity 2.0, for the songs are oddly radio-friendly and easy to headbang to yet still often unconventional, containing some crazy twists and tongue-in-cheek fun. At the same time, the record is in no way derivative of System Of A Down's work - both bands just share a bit of kinship, one example of which is how neither are afraid to touch political themes. On their self-titled release, Avenged Sevenfold have carved their own distinguishable sound, which is hard rock flavored with such experimental ingredients as symphonic elements, musical theatre segments, and country music. While not everything they do is successful, the open-mindedly done recipe entices my appetite.

What's negative about the album is its lack of good songwriting despite the ambitious ideas. Some material is depleted with too many repetitions while several of the clean and more melodic type of choruses don't fit with the mood set by the rest of the song and on top of that sound cheesy. M. Shadows has a great harsh singing technique that bursts with attitude, but his clean singing is often too whiny to my taste, and doesn't get better no matter how many background harmones are supporting it. Whereas the guitarwork remains mostly entertaining as it vents its groovy, ground-shattering distortion attack, there are also dual harmony parts that I find hard to get past, not to mention a couple of solos that in their show-offness I just couldn't care less for. Perhaps the most disgraceful con is the way the drums have been recorded and mixed considering The Rev's passing and how this was the last record he finished with the band. The cymbals and the snare are too low in the mix, and the rest of the kit sounds utterly punchless, which takes away from the solid drumming performance.

Regardless, I will never understand
why this band is so hated - there's songs that wander nicely beyond the limits of banal structuring, there's versatility in style and performance, and for nearly the whole album the riffs hit hard and hit home with me. Maybe it's the fans... One of which I *gasp* am perhaps about to become.

Favorite track: 
Brompton Cocktail