November 29, 2017

Shooting Guns - Flavour Country

By Matt Hinch. You know why instrumental music is important? Without the distraction of someone else’s narrative your mind can open up and create its own story to which the music provides the soundtrack. Or conversely, the opened mind can
By Matt Hinch.


You know why instrumental music is important? Without the distraction of someone else’s narrative your mind can open up and create its own story to which the music provides the soundtrack. Or conversely, the opened mind can empty and simply let you drift into a state of mental suspended animation where no inner dialogue interferes with peace. How your mind chooses to handle riff wranglers Shooting Guns and their latest effort, Flavour Country surely depends on a number of factors but isn’t it worth a try? Just to see? C’mon. It’s cool, man! (Yes, I am peer pressuring you.)

Shooting Guns generally have two methods for propelling you into higher states. The first is a hard-driving heavy psych and the other is a more prairie-fed approach leaning on Americana (or Saskatchewana in this case). On Flavour Country’s six tracks we get a taste of both.

The first two tracks (“Ride Free”, "French Safe”) take the former approach. “Ride Free” show no signs of organ failure as Hammonds are all over this one, driving the free ride down an endless highway. It’s a common feeling one gets from Shooting Guns and their ability to take hold and whisk you away. Their video for “Go Blind” always comes to mind when they’re in this mode. Just rollin’ and rollin’, plowing through whatever they encounter. It’s a more apt visual for “French Safe” though as it crashes harder and faster. Enough so that you can picture the train outfitted Mad Max-style blasting through the lines in its scant 1:42.

“Beltwhip Snakecharmer” and “Vampires of Industry” are the more dusty sunset type tracks here. Laid back and breezy. They’re more chill than the first two for the most part. After the high octane beginning these two feel like you’re stopping for the night on some sort of trip. The setting sun, stillness of night, and soothing psych lead to bliss as guitars and keys dominate with relaxing atmosphere.

A clip from the movie Slackers sets up the album’s final third where the title track and “Black Leather Jacket” bring back the heavy. Heavy psych that is. As usual a base riff keeps the tracks cohesive as the psych-laden leads wander the plains filling mind and soul with images and landscapes. Muscles get loose and eyes get heavy as the slow burn takes hold. Total zoner. But Shooting Guns always find a way to heavy it up, even just for a little while.

The ever-prolific band does what they do again on this one. They stick to their strengths (fuzz, psych, atmosphere, and groove) and deliver another strong album ready to take a load off your mind. Welcome to Flavour Country.

Tagged with 2017, Matt Hinch, psychedelic rock, RidingEasy Records, Shooting Guns, stoner rock

November 25, 2017

Genevieve - Regressionism

By Justin C. When I wrote about Genevieve's last album, Escapism, I got a bit hung up on genre discussions. That point hasn't become any clearer on their new album, Regressionism, but I promised myself not to obsess about it this time.
By Justin C.


When I wrote about Genevieve's last album, Escapism, I got a bit hung up on genre discussions. That point hasn't become any clearer on their new album, Regressionism, but I promised myself not to obsess about it this time. Perusing the interwebs, you'll find them described with every combination of black, noise, grind, and sludge, but let's just agree that they play metal that sounds like ALL THE THINGS.

If anything, Regressionism finds the band expanding even further. The opening track, "Smoke," lulls you with clean guitars, heavy and low, before collecting itself into a hypnotizing doom with clean vocals. But at the halfway mark, all hell breaks loose and the track becomes a real stomper with exceptionally powerful vocals somewhere in the black/death spectrum. They make me feel like PUNCHING THE WORLD or falling to my knees and cursing somebody's god, sometimes both at the same time.

Most of the songs here embrace one or more kinds of dualities. "The Judge" roars through grindy dissonance while lower and higher screams trade off over slower and faster tempos. "William Blake," which is either about a criminal from America's Wild West or your favorite Romantic Age poet, is more compelling than any 11-minute song chock-full of switch-ups and hard turns has any right to be. Whether it be more clean, arpeggiated guitar riffs, a thunderous bottom end no doubt enhanced by the band's use of baritone guitar, or surprisingly emotive clean vocals over brutal eruptions, each section that should feel disjointed becomes one unified piece. Where most bands doing something like this would make me think, "Ugh, what's going to be next?" this band makes me think, "Wow! What's going to be next?" (You have to imagine the difference in tone of voice there, I suppose.)

Even though it's an outlier, I can't help talk about "Wind Chimes." This is a lovely interlude that uses acoustic guitars plucked in arrhythmic patterns to evoke wind chimes, although it's the set of wind chimes that comes with only dissonant intervals. (If I were more skilled, this is something I would craft by hand and annoy my neighbors with.) It would be fantastic on almost any album, metal or not, but Genevieve includes it because...why not? Expectations remain thoroughly subverted.

I said that I felt pulled along by Escapism, but this new album is even more compelling. Music like Genevieve's is more often an intellectual challenge more than emotional one, but I think they've managed both with Regressionism. It's a wonderful, weird ride that may suffer for publicity by coming out so late in the year, but here's hoping we see it on some year-end lists so it gets the attention it deserves.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, death metal, experimental, Genevieve, Grimoire Records, Justin C, noise

November 24, 2017

Thantifaxath - Void Masquerading as Matter

By Justin C. The new Thantifaxath EP, Void Masquerading as Matter, starts with a song called "Ocean of Screaming Spheres." That's all you need to know. Go buy it. O.K., fine, you want more details? I can help you out. This 35-minute "EP" finds
By Justin C.


The new Thantifaxath EP, Void Masquerading as Matter, starts with a song called "Ocean of Screaming Spheres." That's all you need to know. Go buy it.

O.K., fine, you want more details? I can help you out. This 35-minute "EP" finds Thantifaxath once again pushing the boundaries of their dissonant black metal, teetering between the abrasive and the downright chaotic. As with the transition from their self-titled debut to Sacred White Noise, the band makes more strides forward, although "outward" may be a better description. The jagged, off-kilter riffs are still here, as is the audible bass that anchors the songs without pushing too much bottom end. But there's also a new expansiveness. The previously mentioned opener transitions halfway through the song to a slow, somber piano line accompanied by a swarm of angrily buzzing insects. The bass eventually comes back, roughly mimicking the piano line, but ultimately leading into frenzied accelerandos and crescendos as the vocals become more and more desperate.

The second track, "Self-Devouring Womb," uses a similar sense of expansiveness. A mournful section of violin and acoustic guitar puts one in mind of the soundtrack of an old, black-and-white movie. There's a train platform, and the leading man is leaving the love of his life--maybe to join the front lines of World War II--but instead of a bittersweet and predictable ending, seeing the lovers reunite or the woman left behind to mourn him being killed in action, the man throws himself into the machinery of the train before it even leaves the station. Even Thantifaxath's quiet sections lead to a profound sense of unease.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

The performance and compositions are virtuosic--just check out the dizzying guitar lines that run up and down throughout "Cursed Numbers" and enjoy the warm, blissful feeling that comes from part of your brain being liquified and dripping out of your ears. This track is probably, at times, the most traditionally heavy hitting, but there are still bits of what I call in mind "evil twinkling" and a bassoon (or electronic equivalent) adding a plaintive line. The song refuses to be pinned down, nearly falling apart in the middle before moving to full blast again.

And then there's the closing title track--a seven-and-a-half minute choral piece. This isn't unprecedented for the band. The first track of their self-titled debut was also a choral piece, but this one pushes even further into the realms of the bizarre. It's as if the band took Mozart's Requiem and pushed it through some mathematical space just beyond human understanding. The song is punctuated by restless lines in the higher voices, occasionally contrasted with forceful blasts from the low vocalists. As with most of the album, there's often a sense of imminent closure coming up, perhaps in the form of a nice, consonant blast to offset the dissonance, but the song, and the album itself, drift off on a mysterious note rather than ending. A fitting end to another brilliant album for this band at the end of a bizarre, unsettling year.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Carmelo Española, Dark Descent Records, Justin C, Thantifaxath