Sunday, September 23, 2012

Album Review: Neurosis - "Given to the Rising"

As an avid fan of sludge and doom metal, I find it surprising how it's taken me this long to listen to Neurosis. There hasn't really been a reason for it, I just haven't gotten around to listening to them. I finally picked up their latest effort from 2007, Given to the Rising.

If War Horse had Neurosis as it's soundtrack, I would have totally considered seeing it.
Neurosis is a California based metal band that started with a more punk inspired sound and incorporated more sludgy elements later in their career. They've been around for almost thirty years now and have nine studio albums under their belts (they'll have a tenth come October 30th), so it's safe to say they know what they're doing. Given to the Rising is the first full album by them that I've heard, so I can't really make too much more of an observation on their evolution through the years than what's on their Wikipedia page.

I've been subjected to some of vocalist Scott Kelly's other works though, through stoner/ doom super group Shrinebuilder and his incredible performance on the title track of Mastodon's Crack the Skye. The latter is a gargantuan and galaxy-sprawling song, stampeding you over with it's unrelenting heaviness while the former is a  down-tuned groove laden riff fest.

Neurosis however, somewhat blindsided me after I got used to hearing Scott Kelly's voice in these other efforts. Given to the Rising is still heavy, but instead of offering the crushing power of "Crack the Skye" or the grooves of Shrinebuilder, it seems to exist solely to transport the listener. Neurosis are masters of dynamics here. They can send you out to a quiet, desolate desert, perfectly shown on the tracks "Shadow" and "Nine", and can rip you out and toss you right into a bleak world where disease has toppled the globe and nobody has the will to pick it back up. An example of the latter is in the perfectly titled "Fear and Sickness" and one of the later tracks, "Distill".

Mandatory artsy "band walking into light" shot.
The quieter tracks are well placed to give you time to breathe, sit back, and lose yourself in. Once the heavier tracks kick in, Given to the Rising becomes a cacophonous wall of sound that crashes into you like a tidal wave. This is accomplished by relatively simple, low-tuned guitar riffs with dissonant leads passing over top. The leads are slow and methodical, bending in and out of tune, keeping your mind numb as Scott Kelly barks and roars at you through your speakers.

Production on this album is nothing to be ashamed of, with everything sounding nice and raw without dissolving into mush. At times (especially earlier on in the album), the vocals seem drowned out by the instruments. Whether or not this is a form of artistic expression or not, I don't know. As far as the instrumentation is concerned, everything is mixed nicely, without having any instrument overpower another.

There are a couple pitfalls with Given to the Rising that I've found. The first is that I can really only enjoy it when I'm in a certain mood. This may or may not apply to some people, but personally I won't ever feel like spinning this album unless I'm feeling all contemplative and deep. I don't know why. Whatever. The second downside I found with Given to the Rising would be it's lack memorable passages and songs. If someone put a gun to my head and told me to sing any song off of this release or they'd shoot me, I'd tell them to just pull the trigger. It's not that the music isn't good, it's just nothing sticks in my mind.

On a Playlist With: Agalloch, Shrinebuilder, Tool

Overall Score


Neurosis have made an album that I feel would be right at home in some people's collections, but not so much in mine. I can understand objectively how some would love the sweeping dynamics and style of music presented on Given to the Rising, and even though I don't dislike any of it, when it comes down to the bottom line, I don't really like any of it either. If this album was stolen from me, I wouldn't be too heartbroken over it. That being said, I'm still going to look forward for Neurosis' new album coming out in October.

That's all for now, folks!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

School 'n' Junk

Any regular or semi-regular readers may have noticed that I've been posting a lot less frequently over he past  week or two. Unfortunately for this blog, I'm a full time mechanical engineering student, and now that school is coming into full swing I have no idea how much time I'm going to have to review music or post little updates and anecdotes.

I won't be abandoning Needs More Noise Gate, but things will probably slow down a lot from here on in. Last semester for school, I was pulling 16 hour days, 6 days a week of class and schoolwork, and I figure this semester won't be too much different. Luckily, I've had a pretty tame first week, but I'm certain the work will pile on quickly. Regardless of the work load, I'm going to try to keep posting as much as I can.

It's funny how the money I spent on these could get me a car, but the money I can sell them for couldn't even get me a full tank of gas.
As far as things I'm planning on making posts about, I've got a few things lined up. First off, I just bought the last Neurosis album, Given to the Rising, so expect a review of that sometime soon. Next, expect reviews of the new Pig Destroyer and Neurosis albums coming out this year and anything else that I discover or that tickles my fancy (or that someone requests). I've joined the UoGuelph FLASH Club, Games Club, and EGO again this year, so I'll probably share any shenanigans we get into over the year.

FLASH isn't what you think it is. FLASH stands for Fantasy, Literature, Sci-Fi and Horror, and the club is pretty much just a giant gathering of geeks and nerds of all shapes and sizes. FLASH runs showings of movies and shows every week night on campus, and they also organize larger events like Zombie-Pirate-Ninja Capture the Flag and a year end dinner and dance called the FLASH Bash. FLASH shares an office space with the Games Club, and their member base is pretty much identical. Games deals with any games that aren't video games. Card games (like Magic), board games (like Risk), role-playing games (like Dungeons & Dragons) all find a home with Games Club. EGO stands for Electronic Gaming Organization, and they deal exclusively with console and computer games. I'm not really big on video games -- I just joined because one of my good friends is part of the club's administration.

FLASH Club: Clearly more Awesomer.
The final thing I'd been thinking of is to make posts about my different collections (CDs, DVDs, vinyl LPs, comic books, etc.). Each collection is of varying sizes, so some would warrant multiple posts while others could be summed up in one. I would love to make videos uploaded to YouTube showing off my collections, but nobody in my house owns a camera, and my laptop's webcam is a piece of garbage. If I can find a cheap and decent video camera, I might do that. If not, text and image posts will have to do.

If anybody has any ideas on how to layout or present my collections, let me know, I'd be happy to take any suggestions!

That's all for now, folks!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Andrew W.K.'s Autograph!

Fuck. Yes. My best friend Tracy was able to meet Andrew W.K. last night at Hits and Misses, a record store in downtown Toronto!

Tracy and the King of Partying!
And she scored me a wicked autograph!

I nearly fainted when I saw this picture.
It reads:

To: David
I've been told that you're an amazing boy! And I can tell you are! Party hard and have fun forever!!!
From your friend,

Andrew W.K.

Best. Friend. Ever. Looks like I owe her $1,800 worth of Taco Bell.

That's all for now, folks! It's time to party!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Album Review: Om - "Advaitic Songs"

I haven't posted an album review in a couple weeks now, so I think it's high time to put up another one. Considering my last review was of Pig Destroyer's Prowler in the Yard, a ruthless grindcore album, I decided to travel all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum and take a listen to Om's new album, Advaitic Songs.

"And it was thiiiiiis big!" -- John the Baptist
Om is one of two musical projects formed by the splitting of stoner/ doom metal giants Sleep. While guitarist Matt Pike formed the sludge metal band High on Fire, bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius formed Om. Om's original sound was loud, cacophonous droning music, with Al's bass run through a shit ton of thick and heavy distortion, and Chris pounding on his drums in a style similar to Sleep's final release (widely regarded as their masterpiece), Dopesmoker (also known as Jerusalem). In Om, Al's voice took on a softer and more monotone vibe, bordering on a sort of chanting rather than singing. Overall, Om's sound was a massive smothering, droning wall of sound to lose yourself in.

Over the years and releases, the sound Om had produced changed dramatically, but still kept some of the same qualities as well. Starting with their 2007 release Pilgrimage, Om dropped the distorted bass riffs for more melodic clean bass playing for half the album. The droning enveloping sound was still there, it was just a calm form rather than an overbearing monster of noise. Come 2009's God is Good, the calmer sounds were more of a focus of the album, rather than an embellishment, and the spacey and transporting qualities of the music were enhanced by the addition of guest musicians manning the cello, flute and tambura. God is Good also had Hakius replaced by a new drummer, Emil Amos. Emil brought a more dynamic drumming style to he mix with his relatively laid back rhythms, but vicious, powerful fills.

Advaitic Songs pushes the elements of God is Good even further. 6 guest musicians come and go over the course of the albums 5 songs, with two cello players, a flutist, a violinist, tabla player, and an additional singer on the opening track, "Addis". The small string section gets to step into the spotlight a few times as the album trucks along, and personally, I find these sections my favorite parts of the album. The melodies, harmonies, and counter melodies played by all of the strings and Al's bass really create a beautiful and enveloping atmosphere. Things sometimes twist, turn and reveal oriental or middle-eastern themes or tones which really seem to embody the theological and philosophical subject matter covered by Cisneros' lyrics.

Al Cisneros stoned out of his mind. In other words, just Al Cisneros.
Cisneros' bass playing is still mellow, save for the second track, "State of Non-Return" which sees somewhat of a return to form of Om's earlier material. The remainder of the songs are more toned down, sometimes with the guest instruments fully taking over where Al's bass would normally be.

Because of the electric bass guitar and two cellos going at it on this album, things do get very thick and bassy, but fortunately, nothing gets muddied up in the mix. I don't know what production wizardry they managed to pull off, but every individual instrument is clear and audible while still maintaining that warm and rounded tone of the album.

There's not much I can criticize Advaitic Songs with, because I'm a big fan of Om's recent sonic direction. If you're looking for catchy, hooky tunes to get your blood pumping, you'll find none of it here. This is an album you toss on when you're tired as hell and want to relax, or if you're feeling all contemplative and soul searchy.

On a Playlist With: Sleep (Dopesmoker), Faun, Musk Ox

Overall Score


Advaitic Songs is another bomb-ass release by Om. It's got the perfect blend of loud and quiet dynamics and the larger focus on the guest instruments really pushes this album to standout among the stoner/ doom crowd. Listening to this release sends you on a journey to another world. And quite frankly, I'm not sure if I want a return trip.

That's all for now, folks!