Monday, February 04, 2008

Best of 2007 - from #65 to #61

65. the ocean - 'precambrian'
The scope of 'Precambrian' is simply staggering. An ambitious double album (comprised of a mini-CD, 'hadean/archaean' and a "full" disc, 'proterozoic'), entirely conceptualized (and metaphorized, too) around the creation of the Earth, created by a band that's not even a band, but an open collective of musicians (their official name is actually The Ocean Collective), how's that for starters? By all this you might expect a dreamy, drawn out record with 20-minute songs, but that's where the Berliners surprise you. The music that bellows forth from their apparently huge rehearsal space is the finishing move to this overwhelming ambition, and it's surprisingly intense - a rather unique mixture between post-rock, Cult Of Luna especially, and vicious metallic hardcore like Converge, all of it tempered by odd little details like left-field electronic bleepings and atmospheres. Enriched by some of the best packaging I've ever seen on a digipak, 'Precambrian' is an album that will hit hard from the beginning but will take a while to discover fully.

The Ocean - Orosirian (For The Great Blue Cold Now Reigns)'

64. hey colossus - 'project:death'
[review published on the April issue of Rock-A-Rolla magazine]
The prolific Hey Colossus are, musically speaking, part of the less-is-more school of thought (in terms of number of releases, though, they’re very much the-more-the-merrier!), as their downtuned, dirty beasts of songs stampede their way forward without any big frills or unnecessary filler. Hey Colussus’ aim is to rock you, and they do that shamelessly, under the haze of static and fuzzy feedback, as if Boris were playing Doomriders songs. The title-track from the Doomriders album in particular, one of the best songs in memory, has a worthy successor here, in the truly kickass ‘I Am The Chiswick Strangler’, a two-minute blast of energy that will conjure up images of legs-apart, full-on rocking stances. Elsewhere, other highlights include the vicious ‘On The Pleasure Of Hating’, a gnarly, filthy release of disgust, and the unbearably heavy ‘Rope Assassin’, in which the rumbling chaos almost drowns out the tortured screams of the vocalist. The predominantly slow pace feels menacing, which gives the listener a great rush when things start to pick up a bit of speed and extra bite. In fact, the whole album feels almost dangerous, a true reflection of the great cover image. ‘Project:Death’ is a mandatory release for anyone into ugly, bass-heavy music with serious attitude and aggression, and it manages the worthy feat of being Hey Colossus’ best work so far.

Hey Colossus - 'I Am The Chiswick Strangler'

63. decayed - 'hexagram'
[review published on issue #162 of Terrorizer magazine]
After a difficult period during which guitarist and founder JA was left as the only band member, Decayed has suffered a complete line-up overhaul. Now the 17-year-old Portuguese black metal institution returns with renewed strength and confidence, and it’s precisely that confidence and faith in themselves that elevates ‘Hexagram’ above the usual norm. Unlike many bands based in Central and especially Southern Europe, Decayed do not feel the need to pretend that the inspiration for the album came from a snowy Norwegian forest. Rock’n’roll, sacrifice your soul!, is the battle cry of powerful new vocalist W halfway through ‘Ceremonial Cleansing’, and that really sums it up - the black heart of ‘Hexagram’ beats to the punkish, devil-may-care rhythm of Venom. These genuine old-school vibes are enriched with a very modern sense of viciousness, showing that Decayed are not only rooted to the past, but also to the future. Black’n’roll might feel like a tired gimmick for tired black metallers of yore, but this is the genuine article.

Decayed - 'Ceremonial Cleansing'

62. jesu - 'conqueror'
According to Justin K. Broadrick, Jesu's aim from the beginning was to create the saddest music possible, and while that is quite a goal, it is also a very open one. This has allowed Jesu to evolve from the hypnotic bleakness of debut EP 'Heart Ache' and open up to other forms of expression. Although the dreamy, hazy quality of the music is still the main characteristic of Jesu's composition framework, 'Conqueror', a bit like what 'Silver' hinted at, is generally softer, sometimes coming close to a sort of floaty emo-gone-ambient atmosphere that's closer to My Bloody Valentine than anything else. The "pop" feel that many have complained about is misleading, however. 'Conqueror' is still so rich in layers and fine subtlety that you'll genuinely hear something new every time you play it.

61. dark the suns - 'in darkness comes beauty'
It's something in the water, or in the weather, or that they feed to babies, but there is an overall feeling to Finland's dark rock bands that no other country can really match. Not that they try much, since this kind of thing can really only be done in Suomi - you have nowhere else with bands like (post-'Amok') Sentenced, Entwine, Charon, Poisonblack, Cryhavoc or Eternal Tears of Sorrow, to name but a few. Dark The Suns is the newest addition to this illustrious bunch, and it features all the staples of this geographical sub-genre, there's the gravely vocals (slightly more gravely than most here), the melodic leads, the emotional subjects, the sexy and stylish sense of darkness. The main difference is the way Dark The Suns use their keyboards, as they are omni-present and carry the main melodies of the songs themselves, for extra dramatic factor. All this could be the set-up for a bad review, waiting for the 'so, heard it all before, cliché, wimp music, avoid.' punchline. Thing is, Dark The Suns songs work. They're insanely catchy, but there's quality underneath that allows them to survive the disposable factor, there's soul to them. Of course you'll hate it if you only dig extremebrutaldeathmetalgroaargh, but if you like melody and emotion in your music, check out these guys.

Dark The Suns - 'The Sleeping Beauty'

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