How Countries Around the World Fund Music—and Why It Matters

The Weeknd photo by Suzi Pratt/Getty Images

In North America, it’s hard to imagine a government-supported artist more prominent right now than Abel Tesfaye, the Canadian pop lothario best known as the Weeknd. Now a multiplatinum artist who has worked with everyone from Daft Punk to Kendrick Lamar, in August 2013 the Weeknd was already booked in overseas arenas ahead of his proper major-label debut album, Kiss Land. That’s when his management received almost $150,000 for marketing, promotion, and more. (Neither the Weeknd nor his management would comment for this story.)

The money came from FACTOR, a public-private partnership geared toward advancing the Canadian music industry. The Canada Council for the Arts, which funds classical music, awarded almost $21 million in music grants and prizes last year, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government sharply increased federal arts spending. FACTOR, with funds from the Department of Canadian Heritage and Canada’s private radio broadcasters, provided only about $11 million in funding, but that was mainly classified under folk, alternative, rock, and pop. A FACTOR grant financed the showcase gig that brought Majical Cloudz to the attention of Lorde, who later brought the Montreal duo on her North American tour. FACTOR also supported the making of Grimes’s Art Angels, as well as recent projects by Carly Rae Jepsen, White Lung, and U.S. Girls. In recent years, two of the larger Canadian provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, have also rolled out their own music funds.

If Scandinavian governments treat art as a right, Canadian officials seem to be buying into the idea that music creates economic value. “That’s been the big shift in thinking, from a cultural activity to an investment,” FACTOR president Duncan McKie explains. Likewise, and unlike the Canada Council, FACTOR is admittedly oriented toward commercial success. Where FACTOR is at least partly taxpayer funded, Canadian musicians have another, wholly private source of money available to them, too. Radio Starmaker, funded by the major commercial broadcasting companies, awarded about $6.6 million in grants last year, to Grimes, Majical Cloudz, Purity Ring, Fucked Up, and many other artists considered “rising stars.”

With so much funding available, and so much of an emphasis on sales potential, some grumbling about the Canadian process is inevitable. FACTOR alone has been criticized as insular and supportive of mediocrity, while Canada Council’s recent rollout of a new online grant platform was beset with glitches. But for many artists, even an imperfect system of funding would still be far better than no funding at all.

“If I didn’t get it I’d be making synth-pop,” jokes Owen Pallett, the violin-looping singer-songwriter, recurring Arcade Fire collaborator, and Oscar-nominated film composer. More seriously, Pallett contends that trickle-down economics, at least in artistic communities, actually works. Even when he has been playing to smaller crowds in out-of-the-way towns, he says, he has been able to pay his band what he considers a living wage: What they’d make if they were working in a bar at home. “Government funding for the arts is a mark of a successful civilization and should be maximized,” Pallett emphasizes. He’s less interested in nitpicking FACTOR’s funding choices than expanding them.

Grants can also keep artists afloat as they navigate the new economic realities of streaming. “Now the concept of putting even $10,000 into making a record is an expensive investment on something that probably isn’t going to return that much,” says Preoccupations guitarist and synth player Scott Munro, whose Calgary-based band has received FACTOR funding. “You’ll make money off radio play, but it’s definitely not like it was even 10 years ago. The granting system helps to ease that transition.” For a band on Preoccupations’ level—critically respected and able to play festivals worldwide, but not a presence on major charts—that money might mean being able to record in a better studio without going deep into debt or having to go back to holding down a regular job.

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Dick Meldonian and Sonny Igoe

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Saxophonist Dick Meldonian began his recording career in Charlie Barnet’s band in 1950. He then moved on to Stan Kenton at the start of 1952. He remained with Kenton until the mid-1950s, when he left to record on 12-inch LPs with Pat Moran, Sam Most, Erroll Garner, Nat Pierce, Bill Russo, Marion Evans (he’s on the Ted McNabb album) among others. Drummer Sonny Igoe began his recording career in 1948 with Buddy Stewart and then worked with Benny Goodman until 1950, when he joined Woody Herman. Igoe remained with Herman until 1953 when he worked wth Charlie Ventura. His mid-decade sideman albums included recordings with Chuck Wayne, Don Elliott, Joe Wilder, Phil Napoleon and others.

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What they had in common was huge admiration for trumpeter and reed player Gene Roland, whose arrangements tended to be ferocious swingers. Meldonian first met Roland while in Barnet’s band, and Igoe first encountered him while in Herman’s band. Those in the know are probably aware that Roland’s sax band preceded Herman’s "Four Brothers" sound in 1947. Several years before Herman’s recording of Four Brothers Roland had assembled a band with four light-playing tenor saxes and a baritone sax. [Photo above of Gene Roland]

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In May 1981, Meldonian (above) and Igoe got together to record a big band album featuring Roland’s arrangements. The album was recorded at Emerson High School in Emerson, N.J., where Igoe lived. The reed-dominant band featured Leo Ball, Spanky Davis, Chris Pasin and Phil Sunkel (tp,flhrn); Gene Hessler, Dale Kirkland and Jim Pugh (tb); Tony Salvatori (b-tb); Eddie Wasserman (as); Dick Meldonian (as,ts,sop); Gerry Cappucio and Gary Keller (ts); Dick Bagni (bar); George Syran (p); Jack Six (b) and Sonny Igoe (d).

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As always, Roland’s arrangements are top shelf. They have a taut Basie strut and punch to them, with sections making statements and being answered by other band sections. Roland certainly had plenty of practice. He arranged for Kenton steadily in the late 1940s and early ’50s before shifting to Herman late in the decade and then worked again for Kenton starting in the early 1960s.

SONNY IGOE SLINGERLAND PROMO1-5

Roland also led a powerhouse New York rehearsal band in 1950 with an incredible personnel (not all at the same session) that became known as The Band That Never Was: Marty Bell, Don Ferrara, Don Joseph, Jon Nielson, Al Porcino, Sonny Rich, Red Rodney and Neil Friez (tp); Frank Orchard (v-tb); Eddie Bert, Porky Cohen, Jimmy Knepper and Paul Selden (tb); Joe Maini, Charlie Parker (as); Al Cohn, Don Lanphere, Tommy Makagon and Zoot Sims (ts); Bob Newman and Marty Flax (bar); Harry Biss (p); Sam Herman (g); Buddy Jones (b); Phil Arabia, Freddie Gruber and Don Manning (d) and Gene Roland (arr,cond).

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Many of the Roland arrangements played by the Meldonian-Igoe band in ’81 hadn’t been recorded before. The songs are When You Done Went, Richard’s Almanac, Abscam, Sax Fifth Avenue, Road Stop, Papa Come Home, Blues in One’s Flat, Moon Dog and Voice of the Village.

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This is another one of those albums that I wish led to the Meldonian and Igoe band to record Plays Ernie Wilkins, Plays Bill Holman, Plays Neal Hefti, Plays Chico O’Farrill and so on. Like the Band That Never Was, this was a killer orchestra.

Dick Meldonian is still with us. Sonny Igoe died in 2012 and Gene Roland died in 1982, a year after this album was recorded.

JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Dick Meldonian, Sonny Igoe and Their Big Swing Jazz Band Plays Gene Roland Music (Circle) here.

The album also is available at Spotify.

JazzWax clips: Here’s Sax Fifth Ave....

Here’s Blues in One’s Flat

Here’s the killer Dick Meldonian and Sonny Igoe Band in action in Emerson, N.J., playing Jumpin’ the Blues Away in Nov. 2003…

Here’s Just in Time

And here’s Love for Sale, arranged originally by Pete Myers for Buddy Rich’s 1960s band…

       

Source: http://www.JazzWax.com/

Akatharta – Spiritus Immundus Review

Sometimes, when that flight of masochistic fancy hits, we here at AMG like to play a little game lovingly referred to as Promo Roulette – not unlike Russian Roulette, but with every chamber loaded with disaster and disappointment. The powers that be randomly assign a project, comfortable in the knowledge that the first, last and only rule of said gamble is: the house always wins. On occasion, however, it is possible to steal a non-fatal cranial grazing and happen upon something worthwhile. So when the relative quality of Akatharta‘s debut, Spiritus Immundus, rebounded off my ferrous hide and into my lap, I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. I was even more surprised to find that this was the brain-child of none other than vocalist Kam Lee, notable amongst the death metal legendarium for his contributions to Death prototype, Mantas, and of course Massacre, where he would help define guttural vocals as we know them. Akatharta conducts a brand of death/doom so fundamentally suffocating that – combined with the utterly intolerable heat-wave my country is enduring – I barely survived to tell the tale.

If acts like Skepticism, Thergothon and other such Mournful Congregations are playing your brand of Chopin, then this promises to be right up your alley. Spiritus Immundus seeks to provide a claustrophobic soundscape to contain its core of funereal rhythms, and certainly succeeds – employing genuinely chilling nuances to accentuate its inhospitable environs. The pacing of the material is, unsurprisingly, slow, and while not perhaps what could be traditionally considered funeral doom, certainly stretches on. “Macabre Reflections in the Dark” lurches into life with an excerpt from “How to See Ghosts or Surely Bring Them to You” – a cut from Vincent Price‘s 1972 Tales of Witches, Ghosts and Goblins narrative album; a fine choice, I think you’ll agree. A dark avalanche of doom, the song is full of guitarist, Aaron Whitsell’s, ringing chords and warped circus leads, all bound by sparse palm-mutes and a strangely memorable chorus.

Kam Lee’s vocals preside over each track with his signature delivery; effortless and abyssal. To truly illuminate the road to perdition, however, they utilize actual EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena), captured from across the globe and applied to many of the songs to unsettling effect. On occasion, Spiritus Immundus does manage to exceed the purgatorial crawl, as on “Tenebrarum in Aeternum” with trem-picked leads swarming over propulsive riffs. Akatharta‘s debut is a dense affair, to say the least and, as such, occasionally threatens to fatigue. The album’s less vivid material is habitually overshadowed by its hierarchical siblings, and with the litany of Latin that exhausts much of the lyrical body, tedium does come a callin’. “Transpierce the Umbra,” a brief instrumental interlude, although unique for its heavy inclusion of EVP, is inevitably redundant, as these things so often are.

The record’s ordering also seems to illogically scramble towards the end. The final song on the album is a cover of Celtic Frost‘s “Dethroned Emperor” – a classic to say the least, and a worthy copy, but one who’s inclusion as a bonus track or special edition feature would have been much preferred. As it stands, the natural closer of Spiritus Immundus is, in fact, “Possessione Diabolica,” which reflects the albums start, peppered with edits from the same Vincent Price recording. It works its way up to a grand, discordant finale, only to be followed up by another two songs, fundamentally neutering its impact. This became more and more prominent with each listen; disappointing, as the first half of the record is so strong. Fortunately, there is no legitimately bad material; the record’s biblical center, “Nocturnal Interment,” is a 9+ minute devastation that recalls early My Dying Bride, whilst aping the damning quality that band’s “The Wreckage of My Flesh” captured so disarmingly well.

Such is the fate of the chancer – Akatharta was a welcome wager, and one of the better inclusions into the ranks of doom acts seeking to answer the question: what would soul rot sound like given audible form? Apparently, the answer is Kam Lee. Spiritus Immundus plays host to what is now his most relevant performance, capturing the concept of Lovecraft’s From Beyond better than the frontman’s alma mater ever did. For those fans of mid-night desolation, this debut seeks to paraphrase the never-late, always-great Martin Van Drunen and “doom you to death,” and, by and large, it does just that.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Pulverised Records
Websites: akathartabandcamp.com | http://ift.tt/2t9SOIh
Releases Worldwide: June 23rd, 2017

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Akatharta – Spiritus Immundus Review

Sometimes, when that flight of masochistic fancy hits, we here at AMG like to play a little game lovingly referred to as Promo Roulette – not unlike Russian Roulette, but with every chamber loaded with disaster and disappointment. The powers that be randomly assign a project, comfortable in the knowledge that the first, last and only rule of said gamble is: the house always wins. On occasion, however, it is possible to steal a non-fatal cranial grazing and happen upon something worthwhile. So when the relative quality of Akatharta‘s debut, Spiritus Immundus, rebounded off my ferrous hide and into my lap, I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. I was even more surprised to find that this was the brain-child of none other than vocalist Kam Lee, notable amongst the death metal legendarium for his contributions to Death prototype, Mantas, and of course Massacre, where he would help define guttural vocals as we know them. Akatharta conducts a brand of death/doom so fundamentally suffocating that – combined with the utterly intolerable heat-wave my country is enduring – I barely survived to tell the tale.

If acts like Skepticism, Thergothon and other such Mournful Congregations are playing your brand of Chopin, then this promises to be right up your alley. Spiritus Immundus seeks to provide a claustrophobic soundscape to contain its core of funereal rhythms, and certainly succeeds – employing genuinely chilling nuances to accentuate its inhospitable environs. The pacing of the material is, unsurprisingly, slow, and while not perhaps what could be traditionally considered funeral doom, certainly stretches on. “Macabre Reflections in the Dark” lurches into life with an excerpt from “How to See Ghosts or Surely Bring Them to You” – a cut from Vincent Price‘s 1972 Tales of Witches, Ghosts and Goblins narrative album; a fine choice, I think you’ll agree. A dark avalanche of doom, the song is full of guitarist, Aaron Whitsell’s, ringing chords and warped circus leads, all bound by sparse palm-mutes and a strangely memorable chorus.

Kam Lee’s vocals preside over each track with his signature delivery; effortless and abyssal. To truly illuminate the road to perdition, however, they utilize actual EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena), captured from across the globe and applied to many of the songs to unsettling effect. On occasion, Spiritus Immundus does manage to exceed the purgatorial crawl, as on “Tenebrarum in Aeternum” with trem-picked leads swarming over propulsive riffs. Akatharta‘s debut is a dense affair, to say the least and, as such, occasionally threatens to fatigue. The album’s less vivid material is habitually overshadowed by its hierarchical siblings, and with the litany of Latin that exhausts much of the lyrical body, tedium does come a callin’. “Transpierce the Umbra,” a brief instrumental interlude, although unique for its heavy inclusion of EVP, is inevitably redundant, as these things so often are.

The record’s ordering also seems to illogically scramble towards the end. The final song on the album is a cover of Celtic Frost‘s “Dethroned Emperor” – a classic to say the least, and a worthy copy, but one who’s inclusion as a bonus track or special edition feature would have been much preferred. As it stands, the natural closer of Spiritus Immundus is, in fact, “Possessione Diabolica,” which reflects the albums start, peppered with edits from the same Vincent Price recording. It works its way up to a grand, discordant finale, only to be followed up by another two songs, fundamentally neutering its impact. This became more and more prominent with each listen; disappointing, as the first half of the record is so strong. Fortunately, there is no legitimately bad material; the record’s biblical center, “Nocturnal Interment,” is a 9+ minute devastation that recalls early My Dying Bride, whilst aping the damning quality that band’s “The Wreckage of My Flesh” captured so disarmingly well.

Such is the fate of the chancer – Akatharta was a welcome wager, and one of the better inclusions into the ranks of doom acts seeking to answer the question: what would soul rot sound like given audible form? Apparently, the answer is Kam Lee. Spiritus Immundus plays host to what is now his most relevant performance, capturing the concept of Lovecraft’s From Beyond better than the frontman’s alma mater ever did. For those fans of mid-night desolation, this debut seeks to paraphrase the never-late, always-great Martin Van Drunen and “doom you to death,” and, by and large, it does just that.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Pulverised Records
Websites: akathartabandcamp.com | http://ift.tt/2t9SOIh
Releases Worldwide: June 23rd, 2017

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Selcouth – Heart is the Star of Chaos Review

I’m always skeptical when the term “avant-garde” is flung in the direction of a work of art. Declaring with any degree of certainty that an artistic creation surpasses the confines of the status quo is a fool’s errand. Time is the great leveler, and only on its scales can we weigh an artwork’s impact against the feather of the chattering masses. Dada, an anti-art corollary to the oppressive madness of WWI, upended the establishment and still to this day inspires action and reaction from viewer and participant alike. But this perspective is only possible when viewed through the rear-view mirror of history. So, when I received the promo for Selcouth’s debut album Heart is the Star of Chaos and saw it described by the label as “avant-garde,” my hackles raised immediately in response to such hubris. Maybe my cantankerous disposition is uncalled for. Maybe my fears are unfounded and I’m sitting on a musical revelation that will be spoken of in hushed tones in the years to come. Don’t hold your breath.

Putting aside my skepticism for a moment, some background on the band and the album is merited. While I’d hardly call them a supergroup, Selcouth are comprised of members pulled from (but not limited to) Smohalla, As Light Dies, Stagnant Waters and the entirety of Khanus. This makes Heart is the Star of Chaos a truly international release with collaborators from all corners of the globe. A piecemeal approach to constructing an album from slivers collected from a variety of contributors allows for a diversity of ideas and styles but also brings with it the danger of a lack of focus if a driving intent isn’t employed to bind things together. Sadly, this is an issue that pervades much of the album.


Take opening cut “Strange Before the Calm,” a free-form ramble that murmurs with female spoken word, strained male vocals (reminiscent of Arcturus but without the charm), off-kilter guitar and jazzy bass, all wrapped up in a carnival-like stream-of-consciousness haze. It’s pleasant, easy to digest and utterly free of consequence. Many of the tracks on Heart is the Star of Chaos follow the same refrain, doling out prog/jazz circus melodies that run the gamut from amusing to vexing while never managing to tie the disparate threads together in any meaningful way. “Gaia” initially impresses, starting off with a deliciously mixed bass line before moving to female vocals that mimic Björk so accurately that she could use it as a makeup mirror. But in time the song starts to drag its feet and by the end I found my attention had long left my body like a soul slipping away from the recently deceased.

I did glean pleasure from a couple of tracks. “Rusticus” judiciously balances its slick riffs and more lurid elements in a satisfying manner reminiscent of Solefald while the playful, upbeat nature of “Querencia” draws from the vaudevillian theatrics of Stolen Babies and Diablo Swing Orchestra, even throwing in a dazzling Middle-Eastern solo towards the end. On the subject of solos, Heart is the Star of Chaos occasionally unleashes a red-hot sizzler, a surprising contrast against the clown parade antics. I’m not sure if this the lone contribution from one of the many musicians employed on the album, or instead is a desperate cry from a guitarist burdened with generating zany nonsense. If it’s the latter, well, I don’t want to use the word “hostage” but if a grainy video emerged of said guitarist with the business end of a rifle pressed against his-or-her temple, haltingly decrying the evils of classical song composition, it wouldn’t surprise me.

Selcouth’s brand of eclecticism is not without its merits, offering a well-engineered album in Heart is the Star of Chaos that is capable of producing moments of genuine engagement. But these moments rarely reach a satisfying payoff, hinting at something greater but never making it to the summit. Selcouth are content to wave Chekhov’s gun but never manage to load a bullet in the chamber, let alone firing the damn thing. For an album that talks big about experimentation and anti-orthodoxy (you know, the embodiment of avant-garde) it’s disappointing to end up with music that musters little more than a well-meaning shrug.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Websites: selcouthband.bandcamp.com | http://ift.tt/2s4WRWy
Releases Worldwide: June 23rd, 2017

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Never Mind Your Palaver . . . [2]

Part 2 [of 2] – the slightly rougher, audiologically feisty, younger brother of part 1 that closes with a custom landscaped & extended version of the far too short scorcher by ProjeKct Four (Mastelotto, Fripp, Levin & Gunn).
79:37

01 Otto Lindholm – Nilindigo
02 King Crimson – Industry
03 Ynos – Tears in the Rain
04 The Cotswold Gnomes – Ringing Beat
05 The Fireman (Paul McCartney) – Bison
06 Brian Eno & Robert Fripp – Dirt Loop
07 Robert Rich – Electric Ladder
08 King Crimson – Discipline
09 The Cotswold Gnomes – Sneering Loop
10 David Bowie w/ Brian Eno – All Saints
11 Robert Fripp – Breathless
12 Fripp & Eno – The Idea of Decline
13 Andy Summers & Robert Fripp – I Advance Masked
14 David Torn – Sink
15 The Cotswold Gnomes – Tripoli 2020
16 ProjeKct Four – Sus Tayn Zee (extended crimson red-exit edit)

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palaver2

original album cover
The Cotswold Gnomes

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Yer Metal Is Olde: Strapping Young lad – City

Are you listening?

The impact of music on a life defies logical explanation. Tightened canvas and plucked wire coil happenstance into memory, its outsized fingerprints smudged forever on that crystal of perspective. A recent reunion with friends and acquaintances disinterred the casket of a life left behind, unsettling all of the regrets and flounderings of an angry young man. With that pain comes Strapping Young Lad‘s City. The authenticity and aggression; the frothing pace; the ramblings of an unhinged mind; Devin Townsend’s finest work lifted my spirits during my darkest days. Even now, I know no purer form of mental bloodletting than Heavy Devy’s scream-alongs and Gene Hoglan’s trampling double bass.

When City first stomped along in 1997, it certainly was not heralded upon high. My own brief but still vivid introduction to SYL ends with a remark to my roommate that I had no idea where this band had been my whole life. It was love at first listen. I had spent years awash in murder worship and sacrilege, scouring the ruins of burned churches and napalmed battlefields for an outlet for the turmoil of youth. City so directly translates inner tumult into cathartic noise that these forty minutes were all a growing boy needed. I suspect a young Devin Townsend knew a little something about the release hidden in his music. The foibles of his nascent career demanded it.

So here’s all my hopes and aspirations, nothing but puke.

“Before SYL, Devin Townsend was perhaps best known as the ex-vocalist for Steve Vai‘s band, performing on his ill-fated 1993 Sex & Religion album. Realizing that he was not suited for frontman sex symbol status, Townsend left the Vai band and, after a short stint with The Wildhearts, began recording demos of his own. Eventually, some of these demos saw release as Strapping Young Lad‘s 1995 debut, the somewhat undercooked and very Fear Factory-influenced Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing. This album did not exactly light up the charts, and Townsend soon found himself working in Century Media’s mail room while crashing on a friend’s couch in L.A. It was during this time that he would compose both City and his debut solo album Ocean Machine: Biomech.

Meanwhile, the late 90’s found metal in a transitional phase, reeling from the explosions of two new subgenres: industrial and black metal. While never sounding like either one of those, City certainly takes cues from both. The atmospheric keyboards are similar to what Emperor was doing at the time, while some of the harsher production choices recall Front Line Assembly or even Nine Inch Nails. City also features ideas that would become Townsend trademarks, such as open guitar tunings and writing songs in major keys (an approach not common in metal). Heavy Thing explored some of this previously, but City brings it all together to create a sound that is unique to Townsend and SYL.

Though certain aspects of the mix have not aged well, the treatment of the keyboards and especially vocals proved incredibly influential, and spawned many imitators in the early-00’s metal scene. It’s crazy to think that City‘s mix job – probably a quick, low-budget affair – created the sound of an entire generation of metal, and led to Townsend’s (brief) second career as producer of bands like Lamb of God and Darkest Hour.” – Dr. Fisting

Hating, burning, waiting, falling.

In my mind, City exists outside of music at large, freed from extraneous list-making and ratings debates. This album serves a purpose. The lunatic ravings of “Oh My Fucking God,” the vulnerability of “Detox” and the pitilessness of “AAA” are meant to bridge the twelve-inch infinite between heart and brain. Loony bin ramblings stride proudly through the halls of City, filled with invective and insight. The faux tough guy bullshit we lament nowadays? The Five Finger Death Punches of the world? SYL topped all of their machismo, from pierced septum to shriveled scrotum, in 25 seconds of “Home Nucleonics.” Devy, broke in a dirty way, would break a pair of pencils off in their eyes before shoving the remainders up his own nostrils and barking like a walrus. In City, SYL records a straitjacket fantasy. They testify to their own – and humanity’s – potential for permanent derailment. What separates City from countless pretenders is that, by the end of the ride, you feel like you might be going a little mad too.

“Boom, boom” is the beating that I hear in the night, but no one hears, so no one knows, and…

“The subject of gateway albums often crops-up in metal circles, as we try to identify the albums that bridged the gap between more palatable, mainstream-aligned tastes and the dark and challenging realms of extreme metal. While my own experiences weren’t necessarily defined by just one album, Strapping Young Lad‘s phenomenal sophomore album City was a hugely influential release in my formative metal years. I consider the album a quintessential stepping stone in my own metal evolution. By its release, drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan had already risen to impressive heights hammering the skins on high-caliber albums from Death and Dark Angel, adding a crucial human element to the complex, mechanized, percussive assault that defines the record. The songs on City were imbued with a weird accessibility, melodic counterpoint and catchiness belying the more extreme and challenging nature of the album. Devin’s quirky, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor pierced the album’s tough exterior with rays of electric light. It is this element of fun that makes City such a blast to listen to.

In the end, it was an elusive, undefinable element to City‘s stylistic construction that set it apart from the masses and confirmed madcap leader Devin Townsend as one of modern metal’s most compelling composers and eccentric personalities. Incorporating elements of industrial, thrash, death, and even hints of black metal, Townsend’s unique and experimental songwriting abilities and maniacal vocals, combined with a mix of paranoia, emotion, unhinged lunacy, humor and hatred, created an intoxicating listening experience unlike anything else in the metal universe.” – L. Saunders

I’m sick of lying. I’m sick of trying. I’m tired of waiting for fucking nothing.

From the start, City clearly had an aura around it. While later albums adequately serviced the industrial thrash mold, they felt lacking, always in search of that final drop of potency. Perhaps cleaner productions scrapped off too much grit; perhaps the near-immediate hiatus that followed City‘s release kneecapped their momentum; perhaps Townsend’s other projects siphoned off too much of his incalculable influence. I suspect, however, that this special feeling cannot be explained by a simple time-and-place rationale. Though I would not discover the album until it was nearly a decade old, my relationship with City aligns with the takes of my fellow writers. City has withstood the deluge of music that has come to define our lives.

If this is all there is, if this is it, won’t someone tell me?

“Like the discovery that typing “58008” on a calculator and turning it upside-down spells “BOOBS,” we’ve all experienced a profound, epoch-defining moment at some point in our lives. Mine was in early 1997, when an impromptu visit to a record store upended my understanding of what music represented and how a single album could shake one to their very core. Strapping Young Lad‘s debut was wryly titled Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, but it is in City where light dies and atoms collapse. Soon after purchasing the album, I forced it upon my fellow metalheads, hoping to convert them to my cause. By the time “Underneath the Waves” breached their shore, the CD was shoved back in my hands with the solemn declaration that it was “too heavy” for their tastes. Too heavy… a quaint notion, but no other album in the intervening years has drawn such a response from the mouths of veterans.

It’s hard to put into words what I experienced that day. All I know is that when Devin screamed “I will never be afraid,” something fundamentally changed inside of me. City filled a void I didn’t know I had, offering enlightenment through taut riffs, inhuman percussion and Devin’s transcendent wails. I knew in that moment that metal would never be the same, that when it came to expulsions of anger and frustration City would be the standard all albums would be measured against. City stands eternal, its paint unchipped, its steel untarnished, a monolith of grinding gears that will spit fire until our sun perishes. For that, I will be forever grateful.” – Treble Yell

“In my eyes, City is the ultimate gateway metal album and perhaps the finest hour in Devin Townsend’s stellar career. In the 20 years since it first graced our ears, it still sounds as fresh and exhilarating as it did upon release.” – L. Saunders

Me: For me, City stands alone – not as something so neatly defined as a personal favorite, but as something more, a record built to enrage and delight, to transport the mind and embolden the soul and, if asked, to help a lonely kid on a train find his way.

Are you?

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In Human Form – Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I Review

In Human Form - Opening of the Eye by the Death of the IIn Human Form has me trapped in a corner. In addition to being a mouthful, Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I has seen my prosaic muse torn to pieces. I doubt this current dry spell stems from a lack of comprehension, but I pray nonetheless for a moment of clarity to absolve this torment. An undertaking this ambitious and idiosyncratic surely has a story to tell, but my thoughts are born dead, the empty words of an overactive imagination. Binding this cosmic sea of individual thought patterns together as one neatly wrapped summation would be difficult even without judgment. Nailing down a numerical conclusion on IHF‘s sophomore entry may be just as hard as getting pen to paper.

“Progressive” is not a strong enough descriptor for IHF. While Obsidian Tongue, Infera Bruo, and other peers in the New England black metal circuit channeled typical outfits like Agalloch, Enslaved, and Wolves in the Throne Room, IHF draw from jazz, doom, thrash, and everything in between. WitTR and Agalloch do make an appearance, however, through IHF‘s long-form approach. Opening (OotEbtDotI?) sees its three main tracks all exceed 14 minutes. The length only increases this review’s difficulty, let alone its saxophone diversions and high-minded compositions. Sometimes the damned thing verges on exiting metal altogether. I’m reminded of Dr. A.N. Grier‘s troubles pinning down Igo(ööaaa)rrr, though Opening sounds like glam metal compared to that cacophonous monstrosity.

“All Is Occulted by Swathes of Ego” opens on a ploddy death/doom riff that morphs into post-inspired trills before a tempered carnival atmosphere tilts the track sideways. At times, the developments conjure what black metal might sound like if Chuck Schuldiner slapped some Oreo-themed face paint on his off-kilter progressions, took downers, and tried to play Between the Buried and Me at one-quarter speed. When a raucous build finally sets fire to the meandering tempo, it’s a welcome sight. IHF borrow from black metals French, frigid, and folky, nodding to traditionalists even as it incorporates its bag of tricks into the fray.

IHF‘s focus on diversity might seem like a strength at first. But in truth the directions that stand out are often more straightforward, instead relying on an interesting beat or a splash of dissonance to bolster it. For instance, those death/doom bookends from “All Is Occulted” sound more like Raise the Black than Katatonia and fall completely flat. Even on the two stronger tracks, the material runs hot and cold across the mammoth run times. At its best, the mutating collective of jazz, prog, black and melody and eccentricity finds a way to work by blending those many components into a palatable offering. When that mix sours, the constant shuffling bogs Opening down. IHF‘s brand of dartboard metal might appeal to the progressive crowd, but it makes for a disjointed listening experience in this venue.

In Human Form 2017

Thankfully the strength of IHF‘s blackened runs keeps the album afloat, breaking up the array of musical knick-knacks and baubles. These successes pockmark Opening, ranging from the aforementioned fifty shades of black to the inquisitive riffs of “Zenith Thesis, Abbadon Hypothesis.” They achieve a surprising level of harmony that holds together layers of psychotic babbling and Richard Dixon’s roiling skin battering. “Through an Obstructionist’s Eye” handles its death/doom far better than “All Is Occulted,” improving on both the riff and its length. The track is most conventionally black metal of the bunch, but that doesn’t stop Dixon from eschewing classic blasts for a wide selection of secondary choices atypical of the genre. His performance stands out as my favorite, though Nick Clark (Sign of the Goat) deserves serious recognition for crafting the expansive riff-work on the album. Clark also handled the production, and while IHF‘s flecks of aggression could use more punch, he serviced Opening‘s progressive side capably.

With Shalin Shah (Protolith) and Dave Kaminsky (Stone Healer, ex-Autolatry) joining the fray, there’s no reason to expect Opening is anywhere close to IHF‘s peak. As you might suspect from the back-and-forth nature of this review, I’m very torn on the music at hand. While I may be down on the quality of this album — at least relative to my peers — I am still bullish on In Human Form‘s prospects going forward. With I, Voidhanger scooping them up for a full release, I expect they haven’t finished bending reviewers into knots yet.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: i-voidhangerrecords.bandcamp.com | I, Voidhanger Records
Websites: inhumanformlowell.bandcamp.com | http://ift.tt/2t2M9Pz
Releases Worldwide: June 23rd, 2017

The post In Human Form – Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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In Human Form – Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I Review

In Human Form - Opening of the Eye by the Death of the IIn Human Form has me trapped in a corner. In addition to being a mouthful, Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I has seen my prosaic muse torn to pieces. I doubt this current dry spell stems from a lack of comprehension, but I pray nonetheless for a moment of clarity to absolve this torment. An undertaking this ambitious and idiosyncratic surely has a story to tell, but my thoughts are born dead, the empty words of an overactive imagination. Binding this cosmic sea of individual thought patterns together as one neatly wrapped summation would be difficult even without judgment. Nailing down a numerical conclusion on IHF‘s sophomore entry may be just as hard as getting pen to paper.

“Progressive” is not a strong enough descriptor for IHF. While Obsidian Tongue, Infera Bruo, and other peers in the New England black metal circuit channeled typical outfits like Agalloch, Enslaved, and Wolves in the Throne Room, IHF draw from jazz, doom, thrash, and everything in between. WitTR and Agalloch do make an appearance, however, through IHF‘s long-form approach. Opening (OotEbtDotI?) sees its three main tracks all exceed 14 minutes. The length only increases this review’s difficulty, let alone its saxophone diversions and high-minded compositions. Sometimes the damned thing verges on exiting metal altogether. I’m reminded of Dr. A.N. Grier‘s troubles pinning down Igo(ööaaa)rrr, though Opening sounds like glam metal compared to that cacophonous monstrosity.

“All Is Occulted by Swathes of Ego” opens on a ploddy death/doom riff that morphs into post-inspired trills before a tempered carnival atmosphere tilts the track sideways. At times, the developments conjure what black metal might sound like if Chuck Schuldiner slapped some Oreo-themed face paint on his off-kilter progressions, took downers, and tried to play Between the Buried and Me at one-quarter speed. When a raucous build finally sets fire to the meandering tempo, it’s a welcome sight. IHF borrow from black metals French, frigid, and folky, nodding to traditionalists even as it incorporates its bag of tricks into the fray.

IHF‘s focus on diversity might seem like a strength at first. But in truth the directions that stand out are often more straightforward, instead relying on an interesting beat or a splash of dissonance to bolster it. For instance, those death/doom bookends from “All Is Occulted” sound more like Raise the Black than Katatonia and fall completely flat. Even on the two stronger tracks, the material runs hot and cold across the mammoth run times. At its best, the mutating collective of jazz, prog, black and melody and eccentricity finds a way to work by blending those many components into a palatable offering. When that mix sours, the constant shuffling bogs Opening down. IHF‘s brand of dartboard metal might appeal to the progressive crowd, but it makes for a disjointed listening experience in this venue.

In Human Form 2017

Thankfully the strength of IHF‘s blackened runs keeps the album afloat, breaking up the array of musical knick-knacks and baubles. These successes pockmark Opening, ranging from the aforementioned fifty shades of black to the inquisitive riffs of “Zenith Thesis, Abbadon Hypothesis.” They achieve a surprising level of harmony that holds together layers of psychotic babbling and Richard Dixon’s roiling skin battering. “Through an Obstructionist’s Eye” handles its death/doom far better than “All Is Occulted,” improving on both the riff and its length. The track is most conventionally black metal of the bunch, but that doesn’t stop Dixon from eschewing classic blasts for a wide selection of secondary choices atypical of the genre. His performance stands out as my favorite, though Nick Clark (Sign of the Goat) deserves serious recognition for crafting the expansive riff-work on the album. Clark also handled the production, and while IHF‘s flecks of aggression could use more punch, he serviced Opening‘s progressive side capably.

With Shalin Shah (Protolith) and Dave Kaminsky (Stone Healer, ex-Autolatry) joining the fray, there’s no reason to expect Opening is anywhere close to IHF‘s peak. As you might suspect from the back-and-forth nature of this review, I’m very torn on the music at hand. While I may be down on the quality of this album — at least relative to my peers — I am still bullish on In Human Form‘s prospects going forward. With I, Voidhanger scooping them up for a full release, I expect they haven’t finished bending reviewers into knots yet.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: i-voidhangerrecords.bandcamp.com | I, Voidhanger Records
Websites: inhumanformlowell.bandcamp.com | http://ift.tt/2t2M9Pz
Releases Worldwide: June 23rd, 2017

The post In Human Form – Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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In Human Form – Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I Review

In Human Form - Opening of the Eye by the Death of the IIn Human Form has me trapped in a corner. In addition to being a mouthful, Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I has seen my prosaic muse torn to pieces. I doubt this current dry spell stems from a lack of comprehension, but I pray nonetheless for a moment of clarity to absolve this torment. An undertaking this ambitious and idiosyncratic surely has a story to tell, but my thoughts are born dead, the empty words of an overactive imagination. Binding this cosmic sea of individual thought patterns together as one neatly wrapped summation would be difficult even without judgment. Nailing down a numerical conclusion on IHF‘s sophomore entry may be just as hard as getting pen to paper.

“Progressive” is not a strong enough descriptor for IHF. While Obsidian Tongue, Infera Bruo, and other peers in the New England black metal circuit channeled typical outfits like Agalloch, Enslaved, and Wolves in the Throne Room, IHF draw from jazz, doom, thrash, and everything in between. WitTR and Agalloch do make an appearance, however, through IHF‘s long-form approach. Opening (OotEbtDotI?) sees its three main tracks all exceed 14 minutes. The length only increases this review’s difficulty, let alone its saxophone diversions and high-minded compositions. Sometimes the damned thing verges on exiting metal altogether. I’m reminded of Dr. A.N. Grier‘s troubles pinning down Igo(ööaaa)rrr, though Opening sounds like glam metal compared to that cacophonous monstrosity.

“All Is Occulted by Swathes of Ego” opens on a ploddy death/doom riff that morphs into post-inspired trills before a tempered carnival atmosphere tilts the track sideways. At times, the developments conjure what black metal might sound like if Chuck Schuldiner slapped some Oreo-themed face paint on his off-kilter progressions, took downers, and tried to play Between the Buried and Me at one-quarter speed. When a raucous build finally sets fire to the meandering tempo, it’s a welcome sight. IHF borrow from black metals French, frigid, and folky, nodding to traditionalists even as it incorporates its bag of tricks into the fray.

IHF‘s focus on diversity might seem like a strength at first. But in truth the directions that stand out are often more straightforward, instead relying on an interesting beat or a splash of dissonance to bolster it. For instance, those death/doom bookends from “All Is Occulted” sound more like Raise the Black than Katatonia and fall completely flat. Even on the two stronger tracks, the material runs hot and cold across the mammoth run times. At its best, the mutating collective of jazz, prog, black and melody and eccentricity finds a way to work by blending those many components into a palatable offering. When that mix sours, the constant shuffling bogs Opening down. IHF‘s brand of dartboard metal might appeal to the progressive crowd, but it makes for a disjointed listening experience in this venue.

In Human Form 2017

Thankfully the strength of IHF‘s blackened runs keeps the album afloat, breaking up the array of musical knick-knacks and baubles. These successes pockmark Opening, ranging from the aforementioned fifty shades of black to the inquisitive riffs of “Zenith Thesis, Abbadon Hypothesis.” They achieve a surprising level of harmony that holds together layers of psychotic babbling and Richard Dixon’s roiling skin battering. “Through an Obstructionist’s Eye” handles its death/doom far better than “All Is Occulted,” improving on both the riff and its length. The track is most conventionally black metal of the bunch, but that doesn’t stop Dixon from eschewing classic blasts for a wide selection of secondary choices atypical of the genre. His performance stands out as my favorite, though Nick Clark (Sign of the Goat) deserves serious recognition for crafting the expansive riff-work on the album. Clark also handled the production, and while IHF‘s flecks of aggression could use more punch, he serviced Opening‘s progressive side capably.

With Shalin Shah (Protolith) and Dave Kaminsky (Stone Healer, ex-Autolatry) joining the fray, there’s no reason to expect Opening is anywhere close to IHF‘s peak. As you might suspect from the back-and-forth nature of this review, I’m very torn on the music at hand. While I may be down on the quality of this album — at least relative to my peers — I am still bullish on In Human Form‘s prospects going forward. With I, Voidhanger scooping them up for a full release, I expect they haven’t finished bending reviewers into knots yet.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: i-voidhangerrecords.bandcamp.com | I, Voidhanger Records
Websites: inhumanformlowell.bandcamp.com | http://ift.tt/2t2M9Pz
Releases Worldwide: June 23rd, 2017

The post In Human Form – Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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Source: http://ift.tt/19s2A6Q