28 September 2014

Merlin - "Christ Killer"

Merlin - Christ Killer

Something wicked this way comes.

Merlin is a band I've been following for an awfully long time. I picked up one of their very first hand made CD's at Love Garden Sounds, and I faithfully followed them through their gradual progression into becoming one of my favorite bands. Through releases like their frightening Nachtamar and their intense and wild live shows, Merlin was permanently infused deep in my head. And while their last self titled album was not my favorite of theirs (mostly do to some recording flaws and weaker tracks), it still has some of my favorite songs and riffs from the band. However, in 2014 the band brings us yet another piece of their creation, the ever blasphemous Christ Killer. And holy crap. This album blew me away.

While Merlin felt like a much more home recorded album in the DIY style of their past effort, Christ Killer feels like a studio quality recording. Right off the bat it has this wonderfully full sound that wasn't present on past records. To me, this album is Merlin's full realized potential. Everything I knew they could become, and even more. From the first notes of impending doom on the intro "Overture," I felt this sense of fear and dread over what was to come next. The band just lets this song build and build with instrumentation, pulling you into the world as they see it. And this song is barely over 2 and a half minutes (far and away the shortest track Merlin offers on the record). From there, the band jumps into the very southern rock infused "Execution." This track is easily one of the catchiest things I've heard Merlin put together, and I love every second of it. It's just straight up blood pumping, and has killer riffs coming from the bands two guitarists. The bass is thick and fuzzy, and the drums are just recorded and played perfectly. And the little breakdown/transition the band throws in during the songs final 40 seconds is incredible. After this is the 8 and a half minute "Deal With The Devil," a slowly building and evolving metal track that feels like it could be something written back during the genre's heyday. It lets itself develop and grow into an incredible, relentless beast of musical power that I really really enjoy. Speaking of gradually developing tracks, Christ Killer's final two tracks are the masters of mounting musical tension. The first of these two, "Lucifer's Revenge," mutates and builds almost like one of the more groove heavy tracks from a recent Swans record. And god is it fantastic (no pun intended). The album comes to a very impressive end with "The Christkiller." This track transports you into a scene straight out of a western and it keeps you there for the entire running time. With the slow building introduction with swirling airy noises, twangy acoustic guitar, and bongos, it just slowly burns a hole right into your head. It's beautiful and haunting at the same time. It's over 6 and half minutes into the track that the track seems to break into a southern metal jam that shakes you to the core. It's not blood pumping, or even exciting. It's almost terrifying. You feel like Merlin is just billowing into the earth, going deeper and deeper to find hell, and they're taking you with them. As you hear some guitar feedback, it seems to signal the end of your journey.

In summary, Christ Killer is Merlin at their very best. Every single musician who worked on this record really put in their maximum effort, and god did it pay off. This is the record that I knew Merlin had in them since their beginnings, and I'm so happy that they finally have all the resources to take their music into another freaking dimension. I love this record, and I'll be amazed to see how Merlin tops this one. Check it out as soon as possible.

27 September 2014

Lake Mary - "There Are Always Second Chances In The Mountains"

Lake Mary - There Are Always Second Chances In The Mountains

Ah man. Albums this good make me happy, guys.

Lake Mary is a Colorado based ambient folk artist. I found out about him through the lovely people at Planted Tapes, a unique limited release tape label also based in Colorado. I listened to the sample provided by Planted Tapes as a teaser for There Are Always Second Chances In The Mountains, and I was stunned by what I heard. Thick, dense monolithic drones mixed with folk-based instrumentation throughout, providing the listener with massive layers of sound that simply surround and bury you. These songs that Lake Mary has recorded are absolute masterpieces, exploring the landscapes around him and translating them into carefully layered and constantly developing drone pieces. I see a lot of comparisons musically to Helios and Lost Trail, who are two of my favorite ambient artists. And just like those bands, Lake Mary isn't just a musician. He's a sound artist. He paints incredibly vivid pictures of mountains and forests through sound. While Lost Trail paints pictures of ghost towns, abandoned industrial buildings and failing machinery (which is a bit more of an aesthetic I relate to), Lake Mary finds his muse in the natural Colorado landscape around him. Both these artists pull me into their sonic worlds and totally engross me in them. These are the kind of albums that make me love ambient and drone music. When you can pick apart a record and just feel like you're in a different place and time while listening, that's truly an incredible experience. Lost Trail is one of the only other acts who done this, and now Lake Mary is right up next to him. I'm really really really loving this one. I'm going to waiting with anticipation for whatever he does next.

(also note: sorry that I spent a lot of time ranting and comparing Lake Mary to Lost Trail. Both of these guys are amazing artists that I love and have the pleasure to know through the world wide web. These reviews are usually a stream of consciousness style of writing, so it happens sometimes. I recommend both of them highly)

회사AUTO - "Neon Beige"

회사AUTO - Neon Beige

A few years ago, when the genre of vaporwave was becoming an internet phenomenon, one of the first artists I was introduced to, along with people like Luxury Elite and Saint Pepsi, was 회사AUTO (who I'm just going to refer to as AUTO for the remainder of this review). He seemed to have a bit of an off beat style and seemed to experiment a bit more. I always found his albums very appealing, particularly albums like Dream.Boxx and America (both titles have many more exclamations and symbols then I care to add in). Over the last year or so, as the hype around vaporwave seemed to slow down, the aftermath resulted in something that in my opinion was just as good or even better. Many artists who had forefronted Vaporwave's beginnings continued developing their style; molding and transforming it into much more hi-fi explorations of electronic music. These progressions have been seen very clearly in artists like Saint Pepsi and Spazzkid, and AUTO as well has proven to me he's still right up at this movement's forefront with Neon Beige. This massive 30 track album is very bright and colorful trip through dance and electronic music featuring plenty of guests along the way. Despite the length that Neon Beige has, I don't think it feels as long as it actually is. Each track is filled to the brim with head turning samples, catchy hooks, bright synthesizers and booming beats. There are a lot of tracks that surprisingly go into shoegaze/dream pop territory, with very hazy mixes and thick layers of vivid sounds. I'm really loving it. I can definitely see the massive amounts of effort put in from AUTO himself and everyone else who was involved. I highly recommend this one. Enjoy!