Comity – The Journey is Over Now

I was going to make a point, but then I realized it was better made by Emerson, so I’ll quote him instead:

“We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men of talents and character they chance to see—painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered these sayings, they understand them and are willing to let the words go.”

I feel there is no good reason for most repetition in music. The same song could have been written in several billion slightly different ways. The genius of Comity’s The Journey is Over Now is that, in one listen, you seem to be hearing each of those billion different ways at the same time. They can pull apart their own songs from as many different directions as there are neurons. This shakes off the incidental, and keeps the feeling raw and honest. They throw everything they can at you: sometimes it’s a sharp, banjo-clang distortion with pinpoint, Dillinger Escape Plan style starts and stops. Sometimes it’s sand-in-the-gears slowdowns that yield to withdrawn acoustic passages. Throughout everything, there’s a vaguely familiar Coalesce-style metalcore feeling, especially in Part II.

But Part I (yes, that’s its title) does it best, starting with feedback and layers of deep groans which remind me of the vocals from Neurosis’ Falling Unknown. When it gets going, it’s like several different perspectives on the same rhythm being presented simultaneously, the musicians equivalent of a cubist painting. The best part, about 4:40 in, is how the song awakes from its acoustic melancholy with what feels like triumphant emergence from wreckage. The way the melody maintains a sense of soaring triumph, over wide stretch of time, without having repeated any particular rhythm, the way it gets refreshed from different angles, before tumbling into chaos, then into spacious sludge then layerd over with guitar tone transpositions that wander in and out of key is something to behold.

Part III is a bit of a more straightforward instrumental track, with dualing acoustic and electric instrumentation that steadily escalates in intensity. A post-rock band might make something like this the centerpiece of their album, but for Comity it feels almost like filler. Part IV is the 22 minute behemoth that ends the album. It’s much like Part II before descending into what sounds like a sludge merry-go-round, and ending with layered screams similar to Part I.

Despite being wonderfully ridiculous with structural experimentation, Comity sports a sound that’s probably familiar to anyone who has listened to technically precise genres of metal featuring a -core suffix. What’s truly original is their ability to simultaneously maintain senses of chaos and continuity, with just enough distance between the two that your brain is joyfully engrossed in the task of resolving the one to the other.

Tombs – Path of Totality

I was mostly interested in Tombs because they picked up Bryant Meyer, electronics/keyboardist of the inexplicably defunct Isis. This move parallels that of Isis front man Aaron Harris, who joined the re-kindled Twilight to release Monument to Time End. Both black metal bands. Both having released progressivized black metal albums.

One would think, of all the islands in the metal archipelago, that Black Metal would be least likely to make the progressive turn. A genre that derives its sense of bleakness from pummeling repetition won’t necessarily have much space for structural variations. And in many moments, Path of Totality leans on you with an oppressive wall of noise. The vocals, always dark, feel like they radiate from a monolith. And it convinces you it will just stay that way. Take the track Passageways. After extracting its pound of flesh, they bust out with Eye-Of-Every Storm style psychedelia at the end, which throws an entirely new light on everything that came before.

Then comes Silent World, which is the inverse. It covers as much ground as a jam by Grayceon, then spends the next half of the song hammering you into the earth. The innovation here is that these variations never feel out of spirit; the gloom has the last word. It’s the fauna of a lonely wasteland. Just enough to lead you in before the darkness closes around you.

Jucifer-Nadir

This disturbing masterpiece erupted from a crappy barely livable apartment in Athens Georgia. Its inhabitants lived the impoverished life of bohemians and channeled all of their energy into this five song album. Recorded pre-internet Jucifer’s two members had nothing to focus on but their art, and GODDAMN does it show. Nadir drips with a terrifying perfection honed by months of nightly practice. This kind of creativity only blossoms in isolation.

http://www.grindcorekaraoke.com/album/nadir

Wadge-Grindcore Lu’au

Freaky, cute, hilarious and purely awesome. This bizarre collision of grind and various beach oriented musics works so well, because of the tight song writing and proficient execution. Yes its goofy, but it is not half-assed like so many parodies. The surf riffs are catchy and the grind sections pulverize. Wadge transitions between and merges both styles beautifully. This album is a great object lesson for anyone wanting to make good funny music.

http://www.grindcorekaraoke.com/album/grindcore-luau

Hellbender-Cosmolux

Balls to the wall Space-Rock. Yes its trippy and synth-laden, but a killer back beat gives Hellbender a certain fire that a lot of Psychedelia tinged metal lacks. Drunk, stoned or sober Hellbender will make you pump your fist and trance out in the span of two minutes. The transitions are beautiful, the whole album works well as a single piece of music while each tune can stand on its own. These guys are a real fucking rock band.

Matt Stevens-Relic

Matt Stevens succeeds where most guitar-centric and Post-rock albums falter. Catchy but innovative. Complex but fluid. This wonderful album never devolves into typical guitar wankery or Post-rock meandering. Fans of genuine artistic expression of all varieties will find something truly rare and valuable in this album. Stevens is among the most interesting and tasteful musicians I have come across. Let this music inspire you.

http://mattstevens.bandcamp.com/album/relic

Upheaval – Incubate the Wasteland

Upheaval is a phenomenal French technical death metal band. And no offense to them but like weeds, every other month another technically masterful metal group sprouts up out of nowhere, with amazing command over dextrous polyrhythms and the ability to maintain a sense of progression over the course of a song.

So while Upheaval isn’t anything radically new, they do represent the state of the art in a flourishing genre. Track one, The Goat Falls wastes no time acquainting you with their characteristic sound: it’s like thousands of razors meticulously chopping up a laser beam, or at other times like a hyper-precise recording of the inside of a V8 engine that can effortlessly pivot between 0 and 8,000 RPMs.

The most amazing track is the third one, Gardens of Bablyon, which opens and closes with a sound I can only describe as a cross between a waterfall and heavy machine gun fire. The final track, The Third Cycle, is the best example of Upheaval maintaining a thoughtful theme over the course of a song. The vocals are deep and guttural. All I can remember of the drums is the note-for-note mirroring between the double kick and the guitar,

There’s not a note is out of place, no cheap thrills, no real mistake if you’re willing to forgive the occasional breakdown. Incubate the Wasteland is just punishing, visceral technicality with satisfying sense of progression.

Giant Squid – Cenotes

I’m instinctually suspicious of claims that you won’t “get” music until after multiple listens. It’s like saying you’ll see the (non-existent) oasis if only you squint hard enough. I’m not against that on principle- it took me a long time to fully appreciate Ephel Duath’s Pain Necessary to Know. And Neurosis’ Given to the Rising was explicitly designed to reflect the investment you put into it.

But in the context of doom and post-metal, I’d like to think I’m sufficiently acquainted with the genres that I would know what to look for by now. Throw in the fact that I’ve absolutely loved pretty much everything Giant Squid has released up to this point, and you can start to see the problem I’m getting at. I’ll come back to that.

Right from the start of Tongue Stones, the opening track to Cenotes, you notice how different the reverb-enveloped cello sounds compared to their previous work, the Ichthyologist. A minute later comes the low-growling guitar. It too is different, and struts about in a grand imperial march, giving you a chance to take in the architeuthisian malevolence of the distortion. It works well in slow pulses, but can mumble as it works with the cello to express even moderately sophisticated ideas.

But by the time we get to Aaron Gregory, wailing “A crawling lake of brine, thick with oil, thick with blooooooooooooood” it’s stunning. It’s as if he’s realizing his own insanity right as he lets out the words. His performance here is one of the high points of the album, and establishes once and for all that Aaron Gregory has the most captivating voice you’ll hear anywhere in post-metal. It’s enough to carry the song and inflect everything around him with force.

Snakehead, with its melancholy vaguely egyptian arpeggios, is the treat of the EP. Never too bombastic, the first half like a brisk folk ride. But when it blooms, when it expands into the beast of a song you’d expect from Giant Squid, it just doesn’t have the power we’ve become accustomed to. Everything is mixed into the background, which is a damn shame because the ideas here are as well thought out as anything Giant Squid has done.

As it stands, the peaks and valleys of Cenotes occur within a narrow tonal spectrum: no change seems to venture more than 5 feet from what came before. Now, to my original point. Repeated listens definitely do serve to shake off a layer of dust and help you better appreciate the album. But something about the whole mix sounds muted, as if the guitar is mixed into the background and sapped of its former all-engulfing power. A track like Figura Serpentinata just doesn’t sound heavy- in fact it almost sounds like the intro music to the Nintendo game Double Dragon & Battletoads. And the cello rarely sounds emotionally in sync with the rest of any given song.

Cenotes will reward repeated listens, but even when it really needs to, it never overwhelms you with power. I regret to say it, but this EP fell well short of my hopes.