Too Many Reviews in the Kitchen

Listen here, people. Having a cat is a FULL-TIME JOB. Between taking care of him, plus my actual full-time job, plus everything else involved in being a functional adult, I’ve gotten moderately behind on my reviews. Like, really, really far behind. Like, at least four of the albums below deserve a full-length review, but if I keep putting off writing them until I have the time then they will never get written. Which is good news for you, because now you get to read a bunch of reviews in one fell swoop of albums that are likely to show up of many a “Best of” list at the end of 2018.

DevilDriver – Outlaws ‘til The End, Vol. 1

Much like Burn the Priest’s Legion: XX, DevilDriver’s collection of covers on Outlaws ‘til The End, Vol. 1 benefits from the unlikely scenario that much of their fanbase will be familiar with the source material. Maybe more than any other genre, there just isn’t a lot of crossover interest in metal and country (yes, even OUTLAW country, whatever the fuck that is). Personally, I was only familiar with two or three of the tracks that they chose to cover here, leaving the merit of the music in it’s own hands rather than it’s success as a cover. And you know what? In a country-less vacuum, they’re pretty damn good.

Calling in help from Randy Blythe (Lamb of God/Burn the Priest), Brock Lindow (36 Crazyfists), and many, many others, Outlaws ‘til The End, Vol. 1 is a wildly fun listen. Idevildriver never would have thought beforehand, but the subject matter from these tracks lend themselves almost perfectly to a metal makeover (I’m assuming OUTLAW country tends to be a bit darker than the Garth Brooks and Tim McGraws of the world, as least if this album is any proof). It was mildly surprising to see frontman Dez Fafara take a backseat on most tracks to the many guest vocalists, but his voice adds a nice aggressive complement on most tracks, and the music is more than heavy enough for metalheads of most shapes and sizes. COUNTLESS bonus points awarded for covering Steve Earle’s classic, “Copperhead Road”, one of a small handful of country songs I’ll ever admit to enjoying.

Grade: B

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Country Heroes”, “Copperhead Road”

 

Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods

Every pre-and-re view that I’ve read on this album is built around the framework of Northern Chaos Gods being Immortal’s first album without former guitarist/vocalist Abbath, who left the band on less-than-great terms back in 2015. Luckily for me, I’ve never really listened to Immortal before, so the album was served to me on a nice, clean plate. And keeping with the analogy, Northern Chaos Gods is a goddamn filet mignon the size of your head served with a side of tacos level of awesome.

Black Metal (and more specifically, European black metal) tends to bore me, as noimmortal amount of evil lyrics, or demonic growls, or expertly applied corpse paint can make up for the fact that it tends to sound really, really repetitive. Somehow, someway, us Americans have found the way to put an interesting spin on black metal, be it Panopticon’s infusion of folk and country, Deafheaven’s mixture of light, melodic alternative rock (more on that next week), or Zeal and Ardor’s Black Keys-meets-Mayhem fusion of black metal and blues (see below!). But Immortal have made one of the most fun & energetic black metal albums I’ve ever heard from the other side of the pond in Northern Chaos God, with more than enough evil to satisfy the most TRVE KVLT among us, all while throwing out some of the most memorable riffs around.

Honestly, there isn’t a weak track among the eight on the record, starting with the thrashy, vicious title track and closing with ”Mighty Ravendark”, which thrust itself right into the mix for song of the year from the moment I hit play for the first time.

Grade: A-

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Northern Chaos Gods”, “Called to Ice”, “Mighty Ravendark”

 

Khemmis – Desolation

Since I started electronically putting my metal thoughts down on paper 5 or 6 years ago, there are only 3 albums I can think of that I would call “perfect”. The Dillinger Escape Plan’s One of Us is the Killer, Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper, and Khemmis’ Hunted, the critical darling of 2016 that thrust the band onto the worldwide metal map. KnowingKhemmis that, I knew going in that there was no chance that the band’s 2018 follow-up Desolation could live up to the standard that Hunted set before it. And guess what? It doesn’t. But very few bands are able to put out a single record that reaches the level of awesomeness of Hunted, let alone two, so that shouldn’t stop you from appreciating Desolation for what it is: a fantastic fusion of doom and rock that shows that Khemmis is still willing to take musical risks even after the success of Hunted. Desolation shows a lot of creative growth from Khemmis, and being the 2nd-best record in their arsenal is a pretty impressive place to be.

At 6 songs and just over 30 minutes long, Desolation shows the band taking a more streamlined approach to their sound than Hunted, with lead single “Isolation” being the most radio-friendly track the band has released to date. And while that is typically metal code for “shitty”, I actually mean that as a compliment in this instance. “Isolation” shows Khemmis doing their best Iron Maiden impression, dropping the catchiest riff of their career over thunderous tribal drums and their trademark doom-laden croons. While it may not be the best song they’ve ever released, it is the most accessible, and stands a good chance to get the band further exposure with its ability to attract those outside of the doom-o-sphere.

Album closer “From Ruin”, while not as instantly addictive as “Isolation”, may prove to be the best track on the record, with its slow, lurching pace and dramatic vocals crafting one of the most intense experiences on Desolation. It’s the track that’s closest stylistically to those on Hunted, and with each subsequent listen it gets better and better. While “The Seer” may be my least favorite track from the band yet, 5 of the 6 songs on Desolation are some degree of magnificent, and for that reason Desolation, despite not living up to its predecessor, is still one of the finest achievements of 2018.

Grade: A-

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Isolation”, “Flesh to Nothing”, “From Ruin”

 

The Night Flight Orchestra – Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough

If you aren’t familiar with the Night Flight Orchestra, the band features a bunch of heavy-hitters from the Swedish metal scene (including Soilwork frontman Bjorn StridNight Flight Orchestra 2 and Arch Enemy bassist Sharlee D’Angelo) doing their best Rush/YES impression. 2017’s Amber Galactic was my first exposure to the band, and my love of 70’s prog turned me onto their style instantly. While the concept may sound a little gimmicky, there was nothing gimmicky about Amber Galactic, which was 30 years late to being once of the best 70’s rock albums of all time.

On Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough, the band backs off the rock side of their sound a bit to further embrace the sound of the decade they’re trying to emmulate. The unfortunate side effect of this decision is that the album DOES sound gimmicky. The piano, and the sleaze, and the over-the-top love ballads are just too much to bear. Sure, it’s still a fun listen, but if I still bought physical copies of albums I would have worn out Amber Galactic last year from how many spins I gave it. About 3 listens in, I’m pretty sure I’ve had all of the fun I can with Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough. While “Paralyze” can stand up with any of the tracks off Amber Galactic, it may go down as the only memorable song from this album.

Grade: C+

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“This Time”, “Paralyzed”, “Can’t Be That Bad”

 

YOB – Our Raw Heart

I won’t sit here and pretend that I’m the world’s longest-running YOB fan. You, dear reader, deserve the truth. I’ve really only started listening to the band over the last couple of years as I’ve started to get more and more into doom, and in particular doom of the sprawling, epic variety. I can’t sit here and say that Our Raw Heart is the greatest YOB album ever, as I haven’t spent enough time with their older works to make that decision. What I can tell you is that THIS ALBUM IS FUCKING AMAZING AND GO LISTEN TO IT RIGHT FUCKING NOW AND WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?!??!?!?!?!?

If you are unfamiliar with the backstory, a lot of the inspiration for the record comesYob from the near-death experience and grueling recovery of frontman Mike Scheidt  back in 2016 & 2017 thanks to a particularly miserable diagnosis of acute diverticulitis. It’s hard to grasp the emotional toll that such an event can take on a person, but goddamn if Scheidt doesn’t convey it better than I could imagine with his soulful and anguished screams on Our Raw Heart. Each and every track on this record is a journey full of pain, full of fear, and more often than not, full of hope. His growls (like on “The Screen” and “Original Face”) are some of the most powerful and most ferocious of the year. His singing (“Beauty in Falling Leaves” and the title track) and some of the most delicate and heartfelt of the year. The music on the record packs an unbelievable punch, and yet the band, in true YOB fashion, never rushes their sound to create something artificially heavy. The emotional weight of the music packs more than enough doom on its own.

YOB’s calling-card is the sprawling and exploratory nature of their sound, and that is when they’re at their finest. When I saw the band live in NYC last week (amazing doesn’t even begin to describe the show), my only complaint was that they didn’t play “Beauty in Falling Leaves”, far and away my favorite track from Our Raw Heart. Clocking in at an impressive 16:27, the track is a wandering exploration of everything that makes YOB wonderful. It may be the strongest metal track lyrically this year, and every facet of the music takes you on an ethereal journey through pain, joy, loss, and acceptance.

Grade: A-

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Ablaze”, “Beauty in Falling Leaves”

 

Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit

Black Metal likes to pat itself on the back for how evil and dark it thinks it is. Well a bunch of nerdy Norwegian teens talking about how much they hate god isn’t dark. Zeal and ardorSlavery? That was fucking DARK. Zeal & Ardor mastermind Manuel Gagneux mixes black metal, rock and blues into a fantastic goulash of soul all based on a foundation of American slave songs. That, just be definition, is SO MUCH MORE METAL than 90% of the music on the market today. However much you may think that franken-monster of sounds shouldn’t work, that’s how much it works. Stranger Fruit will have you tapping your toe at every turn and banging your head in between.

With the fuzzy, bluesy appeal of the Black Keys and a level of evil that you run-of-the-mill black metal band could only dream of achieving, Stranger Fruit is about as ambitious as a metal album can be. While the album deserves all the credit it gets for blending the sounds together, what it truly deserves credit for is just how good each style is on it’s own. I have no doubt that Zeal & Ardor would be just as successful a soul band as they would be a straight-forward black metal act. It’s their ability to excel in both worlds that allows them to cross back and forth so seamlessly in their music. Never before has black metal been so insanely dance-able.

Grade: B+

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Servants”, “Row Row”, “Ship on Fire”, “We Can’t Be Found”

2018 Mid-Year Extravaganza

2018 has been an ugly, mean, sweaty bitch of a year for just about everyone around the world, so thank Satan that we’ve at least had some fantastic metal to help ease the pain of these last six months. While a lot can change over the course of the next 6 months (and judging from some of the releases we have lined up for the fall, I fully expect some quantum shifts in my thoughts), here’s the best of the best, and some of the worst of the worst, of 2018.

Metal Album of the Mid-Year:

Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name

While a lot can change over the course of 6 months, it is going to take an all-time great metal record to knock Where Owls Know My Name off this perch. This album is an absolute masterpiece, and probably the finest progressive Rivers of Nihiltechnical death metal album I’ve ever heard (granted, that’s a pretty specific genre mostly occupied by RON and The Faceless, but still). There is not a weak track on this album, with even the mostly spoken word opener and the instrumental intermission serving a vital purpose in the framework of the album. In my review earlier this year, the ONLY complaint I could scrounge up about this album was that I wished they utilized the saxophone a little bit more. That still stands, but it just goes to show how wonderful of a record this is.

Album of the Mid-Year: The other contenders

While the Number One spot seems all but sewn up, here are the other records that fill out my current Top 10 (plus one extra, because I just can’t stand to leave one of these off):

The Atlas Moth – Coma Noir

The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer

The Crown – Cobra Speed Venom

Ghost – Prequelle

Judas Priest – FIREPOWER

Khemmis – Desolation

Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness

A Perfect Circle – Eat the Elephant

YOB – Our Raw Heart

Zeal and Ardor – Stranger Fruit

Song of the Mid-Year: ¯\_()_/¯

A while back I was lamenting that there weren’t a lot of standout metal songs back in 2017, but had hopes that this year would be better. Well, right now that’s still up in the air. Whereas I knew right away in 2015 (Cattle Decapitation – “Manufactured Extinct”) and 2016 (Nails – “You Will Never Be One Of Us”) what my song of the year would be right after I heard the track, that didn’t happen last year, and it hasn’t happened this year, either. So instead of nominating a track that is unlikely to stay at the top of the list, here’s a bunch of the contenders, which are all great in their own way:

Alien Weaponry – “Kai Tangata”

At the Gates – “To Drink from the Night Itself”

The Atlas Moth – “Galactic Brain”

Between the Buried and Me – “Condemned to the Gallows”

Burn the Priest – “Kerosene”

Clutch – “Gimme the Keys”

The Crown – “In the Name of Death”

Deafheaven – “Canary Yellow” or “Honeycomb”

Ghost – “Rats” or “Dance Macabre”

Harakiri for the Sky – “Fire, Walk with Me”

Judas Priest – “Rising from Ruins”

Khemmis – “From Ruin” or “Isolation”

Long Distance Calling – “In the Clouds”

Pallbearer – “Dropout”

A Perfect Circle – “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”

Primordial – “To Hell or the Hangman”

Rivers of Nihil – “The Silent Life”

Skeletonwitch – “Fen of Shadows”

Slugdge – “War Squids”

TesseracT – “King”

Twitching Tongues – “AWOL (State of the Union)

VEXES – “Helion”

Wolf King – “Hail the Ash”

YOB – “Beauty in Falling Leaves”

Zeal and Ardor – “Row Row”

Video of the Mid-Year: Ghost – “Rats”

You don’t see a whole lot of attention payed to choreography in metal video these days outside of synchronized head banging, but “Rats” easily takes the cake for the best video of the year by showcasing the wonderful dance moves of Cardinal Copia, all over the eerie backdrop of a potentially plague-ridden gothic city. The video matches the aesthetic of the album and song perfectly, and Ghost knows how to have fun, even in the face of death.

Runner-Up Video of the Mid-Year:

Nekrogoblikon – “Dressed as Goblins”

Some other publication referred to this video as The Royal Tenenbaums, but with Goblins. That’s a pitch-perfect description of this mind-bending video from Nekrogoblikon, the preeminent goblincore band in metal today. Directed by Brendan Small of Metalocalypse fame (or Home Movies fame if you’re like me), the video tells a fantastic, winding tale all without the benefit of supporting lyrics (about 70% of the song is the line “Dressed as Goblins”, so there’s not a ton of exposition throughout). One of the more ambitious metal videos in recent memory, and also one of the most fun.

3rd Best Video of the Mid-Year:

Alien Weaponry – “Kai Tangata”

If there’s anything that New Zealanders know, it’s getting people fired the fuck up for…basically anything (if that’s news to you, check out any number of videos of athletes performing a traditional Haka before an event. It’s probably the greatest thing ever). Serving as part history lesson, part cautionary tale, and all rock anthem, this video had me primed and ready to go and take down those damn colonists before the first note hit. And these kids aren’t even 20 yet. Un-fucking-believable.

Still to come in 2018

DevilDriver – Outlaws ‘Til The End (July 6)

Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods (July 6)

Between The Buried And Me – Automata II (July 13)

Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (July 13)

Daron Malakian and Scars On Broadway – Dictator (July 20)

Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light (July 20)

Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold (August 31)

Steve ‘n’ Seagulls – Grainsville (August 31)

Sumac – Love In Shadow (September 21)

The Black Queen – Infinite Games (September 28)

Worst Album of the Mid-Year:

Machine Head – Catharsis

What a shitty way to start the 2018 metal release calendar. I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of 2014’s Bloodstone & Diamonds, but Machine Head has proven that they’re capable of putting out fun, accessible, and quality metal material in the past, so I was hoping for a bit of a return to form on Catharsis. What I got instead was far and away the worst album of their career (including their early nu-metal material) full of tracks that are at best forgettable, and at worst downright awful. I love the meaning behind “Bastards”, but it may be the single-worst metal track of this decade (non-Attila division).

Fuck You, Stage 48

Before I get to reviewing what should have been a phenomenal concert experience featuring three metal heavyweights, allow me to hoist myself upon the proverbial soapbox for moment and tell you about what is now my least favorite venue in the New York/New Jersey area, Stage 48.

I’ve been to some pretty marginal venues in my 5+ years on the East Coast. Terminal 5 has all the personality of a soldering iron and the sightlines of a pre-teen watching their very first horror movie through their fingers. The Knitting factory is the size of a shoebox, meaning that 95% of the floor space at a metal show is taken up by the pit. And the Starland Ballroom, while great in theory, is out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by only a veteran’s center and a shady Dunkin’ Donuts. But each and every one of them is higher on my list right now than Stage 48, which, for all of its cool design and modern amenities may have the worst speaker system of any concert venue I’ve ever visited (worse than Fiddler’s Green out in Colorado, which if you’ve ever seen a show there you know that’s about as bad as it gets).

Whether or not this all falls on the venue or splits the blame with the sound guy for the artists, it was impossible throughout 4 bands and 5+ hours of live music to hear ANY of the vocals (side angry note: it would have been 5 bands, but it took an eternity and a halfWhitechapel to get inside the show. Sorry Shadows of Intent). This is a semi-common occurrence at metal shows, but I’ve never seen it so consistent from band-to-band, making me think this is a venue issue. And if this is a consistent problem for them, then they shouldn’t be hosting metal shows. I’ve waited a LONG time to see Fleshgod Apocalypse live, and even now I still feel like I haven’t thanks to the horrible vocal levels. So yeah, I’m a little bitter.

One more “Old Man Yells at Cloud” moment and then I’ll actually review the show. When there isn’t stage security at a venue, DON’T TAKE THAT AS AN INVITATION TO RUN UP ON THE STAGE!!! I’m sure you feel like you’re cool, and I’m sure you’re all sorts of excited to be that close to the band, but it’s really annoying for everyone in the audience who is trying to watch the performance. And even if you are going to do it, for the love of all that is unholy, don’t go up there just to take a selfie. I’m a self-hating millennial now thanks to the behavior of some assholes in the crowd who felt the need to get a selfie with Trevor Strnad, or even worse, the one guy who felt compelled to take a video of himself stage diving. Fuck you, random kid. Nobody likes you, and you should feel bad.

Okay, that felt good. Very therapeutic. Onto the show itself.

Aversion’s Crown fall very neatly in line with any generic deathcore band. Nothing about their show separated them from your Rings of Saturns, or Slaughter to Prevails, or any of those other dime-a-dozen bands. There was nothing inherently bad about their performance, but nothing even remotely noteworthy about it, either. The lead singer seemed to enjoy being up on stage though, so that was nice to see. I like happy metalheads.

Vocal issues aside, Fleshgod Apocalypse delivered the performance of the night. I had no idea how their brand of symphonic death metal would transfer into a live setting, but holy hell did they make it work, both from a musical and theatrical perspective. The band’s old-timey costumes, complete with corpse paint, added a perfect amount of absurdity to their show. The opera singer, when not delivering inaudible vocals (once again, get fucked Stage 48), piled on dramatic flair by trouncing around the stage with a fanciful staff, perfect for a zombie princess. Musically, the band was every bit as good as I could hope for, and bonus points for playing classical tunes in the set break beforehand to get everybody in the mood for their set. I won’t hesitate to say that seeing this band it a must for any fan of theatrical metal.

The Black Dahlia Murder drew the short straw of playing first among the co-headliners, but I realized later on that this worked out much better for them. While they weren’t immune from the audio issues that plagued the entire night, vocalist Trevor Strnad’s voice came through better than any other singer. The played their newest album, Nightbringers, in it’s entirety, although they sprinkled in a few classic tracks during the album and also finished their set with a couple of older tunes.

As far as quality? Holy shit, these guys are great. Nightbringers was one of my favorite albums of 2017, and it was every bit as good in a live setting (for some tracks, even better than the studio version). The crowd was into each and every song of their set, although I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that the older tracks got a slightly better response than the newer stuff. The gold star of the evening goes to Strnad, who is the happiest and highest metal singer I’ve ever seen live before. Throughout their entire set (which mostly just involved him casually pacing back and forth across the stage with one arm permanently stuck in the air showing “the horns”), Strnad had an absolutely ENORMOUS grin etched on his face. Seriously, he was singing tracks with lines like “Ye unholy fiends from depths of black // Turn every fucking cross you see to hell // Defecate in holy waters // Instill much fear and poison every well” with a giant shit-eating grin on his face the whole time. I said before that I enjoy happy metalheads, and Strnad may be the happest metalhead I’ve seen before, which in turn made the band’s performance even more fun.”

I didn’t realize until the day before the show that Whitechapel was playing their 2008 album This is Exile in full. Unlike The Black Dahlia Murder, Whitechapel didn’t sprinkle in any material from their other records during their set, which was a bit of a letdown for people like me who weren’t all that familiar with This is Exile. I had given the album a listen through the day of the show, and while it sounds like a good album it’s really tough to familiarize yourself with any album in the span of a day. But I’ve seen Whitechapel live before, and I knew how full of energy they were live, so I had no doubts that I’d be into their set. However…

Things got off to a very bad start when the band took the stage and it was very clear that a solid 30%-40% of the crowd left after TBDM. I mean, I was there primarily for The Black Dahlia Murder as well, but I wouldn’t dream of leaving a show before the headliner even takes the stage. But the floor went from “Subway Train in NYC during Rush Hour” crowded during TBDM to “Community Park on an 85-degree day” crowded, which is a pretty severe downgrade. Still, the people who were there were very into the set. Until…

The freaking audio went COMPLETELY out. Not just the vocals, but each and every instrument. Mid-song. There’s no better way to take the crowd out of the flow of the show than having to stop down for five or six minutes to fix technical difficulties. It also happened during “Somatically Incorrect”, which was the one track that really stood out to me during my one listen. They ended up just punting on the rest of the track once the audio was fixed. The larger issue, however, was that this seemed to knock the band out of their element. Another couple of songs later the band left the stage AGAIN, this time having what looked like a somewhat animated powwow in the hallway to the right of the stage. My theory? I have no evidence to support this, but it really seemed like the douche-nozzles that kept running up on stage were getting under the band’s skin, especially singer Phil Bozeman. After this second stoppage, there looked to be additional people watching the ingress points to the stage and trying to keep the crowd, you know, in the crowd. Where they belong. Their set finished without incident, but the tension in the crowd was palpable, like when Mommy and Daddy fought at the dinner table when you were young. You weren’t old enough to understand what was going on, but you still could tell that something wasn’t right. Despite everything that went wrong, Whitechapel still put forth a really good show, and I’ll be giving This is Exile another few listens on the strength of the performance.

So there you have it, a pretty fantastic night of metal undermined by a shitty sound system and/or an incompetent audio tech. Kudos to each of the bands for soldiering through it, and kudos to the crowd for still bringing the energy despite the obvious anger over the issues. And Fleshgod Apocalypse? Come hell or high water, I will be seeing you again…

Album Review: Ghost – Prequelle

A band as theatrical, as bombastic, as over-the-top and full of grandeur as Ghost deserves more than your normal album review for their newest release, Prequelle. Quite possibly the most anticipated metal of release of 2018, Prequelle was guaranteed to divide the metal community well before anyone had heard a note. Many consider Ghost “not metal”, much more akin to Babymetal than Black Sabbath. Others, like yours truly, love the band’s gothic/classic rock sound and their commitment to the most fun persona in metal. Therefore, I present you with the most in depth album breakdown in the history of EmperorCupcake.com:

TRACK 1: “Ashes”

What better way to lead off the biggest metal release of the year than…a pretty low-key intro track. While the use of “Ring Around the Rosie” clues you in right away that The Black Plague may be a focal topic of the album, the track doesn’t do much to set up the first real track of the record. Altogether, somewhat unnecessary.

Ghost Rating

 Image result for tired ghost

TRACK 2: “Rats”

Now THIS is how you start out an album! While “Rats” doesn’t quite have the hook that “Square Hammer” does (although, if we’re being totally honest, no metal track does), this song easily has the widest appeal of any song on Prequelle. The main riff is fantastic, the lyrics are full of wonderfully dark imagery, and the chorus will undoubtedly get everyone singing along live. Bonus points for what may be the best metal video of the year, and easily the best choreography of the bands career.

Ghost Rating

Image result for dancing ghost

TRACK 3: “Faith”

Ghost doesn’t lose a lot of steam with this track, following up one of the catchiest songs of the record with one of the heaviest. Cardinal Copia’s closing snarl to the chorus, “Because Faith is Mine!”, stands out as one of the most deliciously evil moments of the album. While the instrumentation isn’t quite up to the same level as “Rats”, the song still manages to pack quite a punch during the verses before backing off a bit during the chorus. “Faith” is far from the most memorable track on the album, but it’s still pretty fantastic in its own right.

Ghost Rating

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TRACK 4: “See the Light”

While I’ve probably listened to Prequelle all the way through from start to finish at least 5 or 6 times already, I still feel like I’m coming to terms with exactly what the album is. But at this (relatively) early junction, “See the Light” is probably my favorite track off the record. It more than makes up the lack of epicness on “Faith” with what I think is the biggest, baddest, and most showy chorus on the whole record. What starts as a quiet, slow-paced track gradually builds into a grotesque hook that any fan of the band will fall for immediately. I mean, “Drink Me // Eat Me // Then you’ll see the light” is just wonderful in the context of the album, and Tobias Forge’s soaring vocals on the last line give it an impact that is hard to top.

Ghost Rating

Image result for freddie mercury ghost

TRACK 5: “Miasma”

The first of two instrumental tracks on the album, “Miasma” is an absolute jam (and I mean that in the fullest sense, which coming from a still-recovering hippie means quite a lot). For all the press (and frankly, it’s mostly been bad) that frontman Tobias Forge has received over the last few years about his supposed desire to be know as the sole creative force behind Ghost, it’s actually somewhat nice to see him let the band take center stage on a couple of tracks. “Miasma” still carries all the theatrics that any other Ghost track does, just sans the vocals.

And the saxophone! My god, the saxophone! It’s just SO FUCKING MAJESTIC! Ghost may be many things to many people, but one thing that you can’t argue against is that they are just a ton of fun. And what more fun way to close out a blistering instrumental track than with a soaring saxophone segment! Eat your heart out, Geoffrey Rafferty.

Ghost Rating

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TRACK 6: “Dance Macabre”

The other benefit of “Miasma” being an instrumental track is that it provides one hell of a lead up to “Dance Macabre”, which will undoubtedly go down as the biggest track off this album if the early live returns are to be believed. And frankly, who can blame the crowds? “Dance Macabre” (which by the way is probably the best song title of all time) is the culmination of Tobias Forge’s stated desire to have Ghost sound like “the one band from the 70’s you haven’t heard”. It wouldn’t sound out of place in the catalog of any huge 70’s rock band, with the uplifting guitars and lyrics nearly straight out of a love song, this track is Ghost at the most accessible they’ve ever been. It’s no surprise that the band has already been holding this track off until the encore, as this is destined to become a crowd favorite starting…well, yesterday.

I was full well and ready to write how Forge’s pronunciation on “Be with you” as “Be wit chu” in the chorus drove me nuts, but then I looked up the lyrics to see how they read and discovered that the line is “I wanna bewitch you in the moonlight”. A) I’m a fucking idiot. That makes too much sense, and I absolutely should have put 2 and 2 together to figure that one out, and B) That line in the chorus just went from a weakness of the track to a rock-solid strength. What a fucking line. What a fucking song.

Ghost Rating

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TRACK 7: “Pro Memoria”

So far, so great, right? Well, yes. But here’s where the album unfortunately starts to lose some steam. “Pro Memoria” isn’t a bad track by any means, but for a band that lives and exists for excess, “Pro Memoria” just seems to fall flat at every turn. The energy level takes a HUMONGOUS step back from “Dance Macabre”, and each time if feels like the song is about to take off…it doesn’t. Sure, the chorus is pretty fun, but it’s also a little on the nose for Ghost. The imagery, the clever wordplay, and all of the dark fun are absent, replaced by the simple idea that yes, you’re going to die.

Ghost Rating

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TRACK 8: “Witch Image”

The standout of the 2nd half of Prequelle, “Witch Image” doesn’t quite match the energy level of flair of “Rats” or “Dance Macbre”, but it’s still a tightly-packed rocker with one of the better choruses on the album. I’m a sucker for the evil/gothic imagery in Ghost’s finest songs, and Tobias Forge crooning “While you sleep in earthly delight // Someone’s flesh is rotting tonight” just warms my heart and brings a smile to my face. The addition of a mini pre-chorus before the 2nd go-round adds a nice wrinkle that breaks up the traditional song structure that this song almost falls victim to.

Ghost Rating

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TRACK 9: “Helvetesfönster”

Instrumental track #2 on Prequelle, “Helvetesfönster” unfortunately falls into most every pitfall that “Miasma” misses. Most notably, I can easily see how if would be better if it had lyrics. “Miasma” exists very well as an instrumental track, changing up sections and sounds quickly enough that lyrics feel unnecessary. That’s not the case on “Helvetesfönster”, which gets occasionally repetitive to the point that it sounds like a standard track that they forgot to add vocals to.

On the plus side, some remedial internet sleuthing tells me that “Helvetesfönster” translates to “Hell Window” from Swedish, and refers to the side cleavage of dresses that began to show up during the middle ages. Neat! The internet says it’s true, so it must be true.

Ghost Rating

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TRACK 10: “Life Eternal”

While “Life Eternal” isn’t the bombastic album closer that I originally felt that Prequelle deserved, the more I think about it the more I’m happy with this song finishing off the album. While I would have loved a showy, grandiose climax (giggity), “Life Eternal” keeps in line with the subdued energy of the 2nd half of the record, sacrificing soaring guitar riffs and juicy hooks for the more delicate touch and emotion that they’ve previously shown on tracks like “Cirice” from Meliora and “Pro Memoria” from earlier on the album. By the time the chorus rolls around for the 2nd time it will surely get stuck in your head, but I was very aware that this was the final track on Prequelle, and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t hoping a little bit more.

Ghost Rating

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising in the streaming society that we are today that Prequelle is front-loaded with the best tracks on the record (after all, better to hook the listener early to give yourself a fighting chance at them listening through the whole album). While I don’t doubt that there are some who will prefer the 2nd half (my brother’s favorite song is “Pro Memoria” after all), I’d imagine that most people would agree that the album doesn’t finish as strongly as it starts. But that feeling exists for two reasons: 1) Ghost are fucking awesome, and people have been pining for this record for years. The band’s reputation has skyrocketed since the release of “Square Hammer”, the largest mainstream hit the band has achieved to this date, and it’s helped pile on expectations to this record, and 2) The first half of this album is ABSOLUTELY AMAZEBALLS. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. Amazeballs. I’d put the first 6 songs on Prequelle right up there with the best stretch on any record that Ghost has made.

What’s even MORE exciting than that 6-song stretch is the thought that occurred to me as I finishing up the album on my 3rd or 4th listen of Prequelle: even with all of the success, and the fame, and the notoriety that Ghost has achieved so far, I still don’t think we’ve seen the band’s best album yet. Opus Eponymous was an amazing debut that few bands have matched. Infestissumam proved that the success of their debut album wasn’t a fluke. And Meliora showed range that the band hadn’t displayed on their first two records. But each of these albums, as well as Prequelle, have flaws. Part of that is due to Tobias Forge being willing to take so many risks musically, changing the bands sound drastically from album to album, but not all of those risks have panned out. But even when they fail, Ghost fail SPECTACULARLY, just like they do everything else. I have no doubt that the band has the perfect record in them, and Prequelle leaves me more convinced than ever that that album will be coming soon. Prequelle is the perfect title for this record, as after so many listens I’m content, but more enthused for what comes next.

GRADE: B+

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A Whole Bunch of Reviews: Non-Ghost Edition

While I’m dragging my feet on putting together my review for year’s most highly-anticipated (or dreaded) metal album, Ghost’s Prequelle, here’s a whole bunch of other review that I’ve been sitting on.

ALIEN WEAPONRY – TU

The band du jour of Sirius XM’s Liquid Metal station, Alien Weaponry is a trio of New Zealand teenagers who play what is consistently referred to as “Thrash” despite their sound not being thrash at all. The band stands out for their vocals being in a mix of English and something called Te Reo Maori, an apparently near-extinct Maori language. So that’s all well and cool. Still not thrash, but cool.

But if that neat little feature isn’t enough to sell you on giving the band a chance, their music should be more than enough to seal the deal. The band throws out infectious Alien Weaponrygrooves and memorable riffs on nearly every track, with just enough melody to make the choruses, even the ones in the almost-dead New Zealand dialect, stick in your head for days. I could barely dress myself for most of my teenage years, and these kids are putting out one of the most impressive metal debuts of 2018 before hitting 20. All while living in a remote corner of the world mostly known for Lord of the Rings and sheep.

Because it’s their debut, and because these guys put out such an impressive record at such a young age, I’m willing to forgive them for some of the blemishes on Tu. The English lyrics can be a bit cringe worthy, although another site I read correctly asserted that it’s because it sounds like they were written by teenagers…which of course, they were. And the record is probably five tracks to long, with some of the weaker tracks (I’m looking your way, “Nobody Here”) detracting from the overall quality of the album.

That being said, Tu is a blast to listen to, with “Kai Tangata” finding itself near the head of line for song and video of 2018. Alien Weaponry have put themselves firmly on the map with this album, and I already can’t wait to see what comes next.

GRADE: B

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Ru Ana Te Whenua”, “Kai Tangata”

 

AMORPHIS – QUEEN OF TIME

I’ve never really been able to embrace Folk Metal, but dammit, Amorphis know how to do it better than anyone else. I had to give Queen of Time a shot after the title track from 2015’s Under the Red Cloud nearly took my Song of 2015 title (finishing in a very close 2nd to Cattle Decapitation’s “Manufactured Extinct”).

While there are no tracks on Queen of Time that remotely compare to “Under the Red AmorphisCloud”, this album is about as good a full-fledged folk metal album as there can be. Even with all of the flutes, and mystic imagery, and medieval melodies, Queen of Time never feels over the top, always balancing out the folksiness with plenty of legit heaviness. I never dove deep enough into their last album, but I get a sense that there’s quite a bit more screaming on Queen of Time than the band has used previously, and they do it to great success.

Even with the lack of a standout track (and “The Bee” and “Wrong Direction” are both still pretty great), Queen of Time is a fun listen if you don’t mind a heavy dose of folk to go along with your metal.

GRADE: B

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Wrong Direction”, “The Golden Elk”

 

AT THE GATES – TO DRINK FROM THE NIGHT ITSELF

Expecting At the Gates to follow up their triumphant return (2015’s At War with Reality, my favorite record that year) with an equally impressive album was probably too much to expect, especially with the departure of guitarist/songwriter Anders Bjorler last year. To Drink from the Night Itself is actually quite an impressive record considering that At the Gates has been putting out music since the early 90’s and is still only a few years removed from taking a nearly two-decade break from recording.

While To Drink from the Night Itself doesn’t have the wall-to-wall consistency of At War with Reality, the first five songs on the record hold up against the rest of the group’sAt the Gates storied catalog. The title track is the high mark of the album, featuring the most memorable chorus and guitar work, but “A Star Bound in Stone”, “Palace of Lepers”, and “Daggers of Black Haze” all pack a heavy punch. While the second half of the record doesn’t hold up to the first half, even less-than-stellar At the Gates is still At the Gates. These guys are one of the defining melodic death metal bands of this generation for a reason, and To Drink from the Night Itself does nothing to weaken that standing.

GRADE: B-

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“To Drink from the Night Itself”, “A Stare Bound in Stone”

 

BLEEDING THROUGH – LOVE WILL KILL ALL

Having just barely made it through the breaking up and reunion of Bleeding Through (kidding, I had no idea they had ceased to be until I heard about them reuniting), I was literally brimming with excitement (or, more accurately, apathy) for Love Will Kill All,Bleeding through the band’s first record since 2012. After all, they were halfway decent when I saw them open up for Slayer and Marilyn Manson, and “Kill to Believe” was a pretty sweet song, so I figured I’d give them a chance.

While I’m sure the band has matured emotionally and physically during their time apart, their sound sure as hell hasn’t. Love Will Kill All sounds like quintessential 2000’s metalcore, with melodramatic lyrics, good cop-bad cop vocals, and even some gothic keyboards thrown in to add some atmosphere. And you know what? It’s not terrible! If you became a metal fan during this time period (like yours truly), you have to admit that you’ve loved scores of bands that sounded just like these guys do (if you’re in your 30’s and never loved Atreyu, or From Autumn to Ashes, or Underoath, then you’re a fucking liar). For what Bleeding Through are trying to accomplish (which is the exact same thing they were trying to do 15 years ago), they do a decent enough job on Love Will Kill All.

My one complaint, and it’s a HUGE complaint, are the aforementioned gothic keyboards, which detract from each and every song on the album. I’m sure they were thrown in to try and give the band a defining atmosphere that set them apart from the rest of the aging metalcore bands out there, but it just flat-out doesn’t work.

Look past the keyboards (and I’m not going to lie, it’s real tough to do), and you’re left with a run-of-mill 2000’s metalcore record that is coming out a decade too late. Worth a listen, but probably no more than that.

GRADE: C

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Fade Into the Ash”, “Set Me Free”

 

BURN THE PRIEST – LEGION: XX

For those of you who aren’t in the know (and if that’s you, have you been living under a rock?), Burn the Priest was the original name of Lamb of God. I can only assume they changed the moniker at the urging of Wal-Mart and other good Christian chain stores that felt less-than-enthusiastic about carrying their records. But for a nice little treat for their fans, LOG have returned to their Burn the Priest roots to release a covers album, featuring the band’s take on a whole bunch of hardcore and punk tracks. Covered bands include Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Bad Brains, The Melvins, Ministry, and more.

While I’m not lame enough to have never heard of some of the bands that Burn the Priest cover here, I AM lame enough to have never heard a single one of the original Burn the Priesttracks before. Glass half empty: I’m not cool enough to know a single track that BTP/LOG that were awesome enough to be immortalized on their covers album. Glass half full: an album of covers isn’t really a cover album when you don’t know the source material. So technically, this album is actually a new Lamb of God album for me, which is awesome!

Burn the Priest lean pretty heavily into their earlier stylings on the record, and are mostly awesome at doing it. “Inherit the Earth”, “Kerosene”, “I Against I” and “Jesus Built my Hotrod” are the stars of the record, and the band (likely due to the varied nature of the original songs) don’t bog themselves down in a single sound on the album. Sure, it may not be QUITE as good as a new Lamb of God record, but it’s pretty damn close.

GRADE: B

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“Inherit the Earth”, “Kerosene”

Concert Review: Astronoid, Plini & TesseracT

Good thing you all are taking my advice to heart

Seriously, the most striking thing about TesseracT’s headlining date at Irving Plaza on Thursday was that when Astronoid took the stage at 6:59 (the little overachievers) to start off the evening the floor was PACKED. This wasn’t my first go-round at Irving Plaza, and I’ve been there for some openers where you could spread out and do yoga during the set without disturbing anyone else in attendance. But not Thursday.

Perhaps part of the reason for the solid early turnout was the strength of the openers. I wasn’t familiar at all with Plini, who took the stage second, but Astronoid’s debut LP AirTesseract tour was one of my favorite records of 2016, and I was excited to see how their bizarre sound (equal parts thrash, black metal, and uplifting melody combined into something the band calls “dream thrash”) played out live.

Some good news/bad news. Bad news – the sound was a little out of whack where I was standing, so I had the drums coming in way higher than the guitars. And when the bands triple-guitar attack is a calling point of the music, that’s a bit of a letdown. Good news – because of the odd mix I was able to really hone in on drummer Matt St. Jean’s work, and holy shit that guy is a wizard behind the kit. Nothing about Astronoid’s music comes across as easy to play, but St. Jean was locked in and on point the entire show. He also looked like he was having a fucking blast during the set, playing with the highest of energy and singing along word-for-word with each and every song.

Musically, Astronoid are INCREDIBLY impressive. Their positive spin on black metal (think Ghost Bath on the best day of their collective lives) made for a fun and rowdy set. There really wasn’t a down song in the set, and tracks like “Up and Atom” and “Obsolete” had the place fired up like I’ve seen for few openers.

As awesome as Astronoid’s set was (and trust me, it was fucking awesome”), I do have one small complaint. On Air, the bands vocals appear to be comprised of singer Brett Boland layering multiple tracks to create depth. While that works great on the record, it was a little off-putting during the show when the backing vocals would drown out his live singing. When he reared back and let it rip his voice came through clear as day, but so many of their songs involve a very delicate melody that just didn’t come through clear enough live.

Even so, Astronoid blew away any expectations most people would have for a show opener, and more than lived up to my expectations as someone who was looking forward to seeing them live.

Next up was Australia’s Plini, who is apparently a single Australian guy rather than a British quartet that I thought I saw live. So that’s neat. Plini (full name of Plini Roessler-Holgate) is a one-man band that apparently has an incredible group of touring musicians in his stable, and it was clear to everyone in the audience that they all knew what they hell they were doing. Technically speaking (and for an instrumental band, that’s probably the most important criteria), Plini are right up there with the most impressive instrumental bands I’ve seen live. Animals As Leaders, Polyphia, Russian Circles, you name it. They were right there.

Perhaps more impressive than the band’s technical wizardry was the fantastic banter from Plini himself. He really didn’t speak at all for the first half of the set, and he spent most of the remainder talking about how impersonable he is. But his dry sense of humor (see? Perfect for a Brit) worked wonders with the crowd, who ate up everything he had to offer.

The only area where I can dock Plini is in their overall concept, as the band lays heavily into the Jazz-Fusion subsection of InstruMetal, and that tends to be my least favorite part. Some songs, especially early in the band’s set, just didn’t grab my attention at all. Sure, they were still impressive technically, but there wasn’t a hook to lure me in. But when the band embraced the metal side of their sound the heaviness was absolutely crushing (which provided a nice counter-balance to Astronoid, who even at their heaviest just sound so goddamn happy).

Also, most of TesseracT came out on stage during one of Plini’s tracks to shave a guy’s beard. So there’s that.

I caught TesseracT live for the first time a couple of years ago after they released Polaris when they were opening up for Gojira, so I knew what I was in for. Daniel Tompkins has one of the most powerful singing voices in metal, and he once again floored me with his performance. Even more impressive during their set this time around were the screams he let loose when the band started playing some of their early tracks. They mostly stuck with Polaris when I saw them the first time, so I didn’t get to see them cut loose on the older tracks. Much like their stylistic brothers in The Contortionist, TesseracT seem just as comfortable playing aggressive, ferocious prog bordering on death metal as they do playing their newer, more melodic works. But as much as the crowd seemed to love the new stuff, with tracks from both Polaris and their newest release, Sonder, drawing great reactions, it was the songs from the first couple of albums that whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

While not as technically stunning as both Astronoid and Plini, TesseracT are no slouches at their craft either, and band was in-sync from the moment they took the stage. As one of the pioneering djent bands, TesseracT make the most out of their sound, delivering punished blows during their heavier tracks that gave everyone something to headbang to. Of their newer tracks, “King” probably got the best response, but “Smile” had the crowd going as well. “Luminary”, which opened the set, didn’t land as well as a I would hope, but the rest of the set more than made up for it.

For a band that isn’t all that traditionally “heavy” as far as metal is concerned, the crowd got pretty damn rowdy during the set, even starting something that almost resembled a circle pit (mostly is was just a bunch of dudes occasionally bumping into each other lightly, but hey, they tried). The overall crowd response almost made up for the miserable piece of shit and his obnoxious friend who took up camp behind me and spent the entire set complaining. Just a few targets of their ire:

  • Death Metal bands, and their names in particular (they thought that Goatwhore and Decrepit Birth were probably two of the worst bands of all time.
  • The lack of women at the show (while that’s usually true for most metal shows, I was actually pretty impressed by the female turnout at the show).
  • The audience trying to clap with the beat (granted, I completely agree that people don’t know how to clap to a beat). But this dude let out an audible groan every single fucking time it happened. Fuck right off, buddy. Nobody likes a complainer.

This was a perfect show for my first concert of the year. I’d imagine that after a few months away from my last concert that it would have been a little jarring to go see Full of Hell or Black Fast. But this was as relaxed a metal show that you can find, and each band brought something to the table. A solid start to the concert year.

Album Review: The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer

I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer.

  • From the suicide note of Virginia Woolf

When that is the source material for the name of your album, you better believe you’re about to take a downward journey into despair and misery. And boy, does Oregon/Rhode Island’s The Body deliver it by the truckload on I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer.

The Body

Once again stretching the very definition of music, The Body have composed a mercilessly punishing record that oozes pain at every turn, a wonderfully rewarding record for those willing to plunge to the emotional depths to which the album can take you.

My first introduction to the body was back in early 2017 when they were opening for Alcest in what was likely the most mismatched band pairing to tour together. Without knowing a thing about the band, they took the stage at Irving Plaza that night and put on hands-down the most mesmerizing live performance I’ve ever seen. Whether or not people in the crowd enjoyed The Body (and for most of metal fans, that would be “not”), the audience was enthralled by the hellish display the band put on. With the deafening percussion played out via drum machine by Lee Buford and the guitars and most bat-shit insane vocals I’ve witnessed to this day from Chip King, The Body live is less a concert and more a performance art piece.

I spent days digesting the performance, trying to figure out for myself whether I even liked their music. After all, I’m not exactly huge on programmed drums, the music has a heavy electronic influence (not my cup of tea), and, as I discovered today, Chip King’s vocals sound an awful lot like the squeaky wheel on my Roomba. Whatever The Body’s core audience is, it’s not a huge subsection of metal. But eventually I decided that whether I enjoyed their music in a traditional sense or not, I was fascinated by their work and needed to explore further. Through both their solo efforts and their two phenomenal (and I truly mean fucking PHENOMENAL) collaborative efforts with Full of Hell, I unearthed one of the most unique bands in metal.

People who don’t dig The Body tend to say that it barely qualifies as music. And you know what? They’re kinda right. Nobody is dancing to The Body. Nobody is putting on one of their records and headbanging along in the car. Where most bands look to create some sort of melody, or groove, or refrain that the listener can latch on to and relate with, The Body seem content creating the most menacing, horrific atmospheres achievable through music. Their work serves as a soundtrack to the dark, the evil, and, on I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer, the tragic in the world today. I mean, you don’t have to look any further than their album names to know that you’re not gonna be in for sunshine and roses with these guys:

  • All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood
  • I Shall Die Here
  • No One Deserves Happiness
  • One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache

On I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer, the band seems to have taken the source material for the album name to heart, wallowing in pain and misery throughout the 10-track record. Even with spots of rap, reggae, and full on electronica mixed in with their tried and true experimental sludge/doom backbone, this album carries an inescapable weight on every track, every upbeat and high note counteracted with devastating emotional and musical heaviness.

While The Body commonly uses guest vocalists (I’ve grown to love Chip King’s squawk, but it can grow a bit tiring over the course of an entire record), King takes a back seat on most of the record, passing off the majority of the duties to the collection of Chrissy Wolpert (Assembly of Light Choir), Ben Eberle (Sandworm), Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota) and Michael Berdan (Uniform), letting them take center stage while he peppers in his patented shrieks from the background. This works incredibly well on this album, and I wonder if the band has taken note of how well their sound has mixed in with darker, more aggressive vocals on their joint efforts with Full of Hell. While I enjoy their solo work, The Body’s finest work has been on their collaborative efforts with FOH, where their churning, bass-heavy industrial sound creates a devastatingly awesome juxtaposition with Full of Hell’s grinding screams. It’s a sound that King’s voice, as heavy and unique as it is, just can’t quite match. On songs like “Off Script” and “Nothing Stirs”, the tracks reach their peak when the guest vocalists unleash their heaviest growls (not that I think King isn’t capable of this, but stylistically it isn’t possible if he is going to continue tracking his vocals by standing 3 feet from the microphone and yelling at the top of his lungs).

Of course, King does step to the forefront on a few songs, and he does so quite well. “The West Has Failed”, my personal favorite track off the album, features an upbeat drum line that sounds like equal parts hip-hop and reggae flowing smoothly under King’s pained shouts to create a sound unlike any other in metal. “An Urn” starts off with crackling feedback (I’ve got to imagine, thanks to the song title, designed create the feeling of being burned alive) before heading into yet another shockingly upbeat drum part. But in comes King again, ready to bring desolation and misery in heaping spoonfuls on every cry he lets loose.

While there really are no weak tracks on the album, it really kicks into gear after “Nothing Stirs”, which was surprisingly the first single released. While it’s not a bad track by any means, each of the five tracks that follow it take the grief and heartache to another level. “Blessed Alone” brings dueling female vocals (one clean, one heavy to a Full of Hell extent) into play over a somber piano and drum line, leading to one of the most emotionally heavy listens on the album. “Sickly Heart of Sand” is a little more up-tempo, with a twangy main guitar part and percussion more reminiscent of a hip-hop DJ spinning while high on mescaline, but it devolves into madness once the screamed refrain of the album title comes into play.

The album closer, “Ten Times a Day, Every Day, A Stranger”, brings the album to a crushing conclusion. Less a song and more of a spoken word poem, the lyrics are taken from Bohumil Hrabal’s Total Fears: Selected Letters to Dubenka, and are, if I’m not mistaken, probably the single most depressing thing ever put to record. It is a fittingly bleak ending to an album so wrought with despair an misery. It is, in a sense, perfect.

Somewhere along the way people have come to understand the definition of art as being something that serves no purpose other than its own existence. No functionality, no purpose, no reason for being other than to exist. I see a lot of music called “art” nowadays, and most of it is horseshit. Music is music. It exists to make people dance, or make people sing along, or even to create a shared emotional connection between people. The Body exist well outside of that realm. Their music, in some ways, is useless. You can’t dance, or sing along, or mosh along with it. I’ve seen firsthand that the actual audience response to this band is wide-eyed bewilderment with a healthy dose of confusion thrown in. But what they achieve on I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer is breathtaking. This album is an amazing achievement because it is so full of sadness and anguish that, for most people, it will be unlistenable. Sounds like art to me, right?

GRADE: A-

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS

“The West Has Failed”, “Off Script”, “An Urn”