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Lento – Earthen

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Supernatural Cat Records, 2007

Aside from a real eye-catching color scheme, I don’t know anything about Lento or Supernatural Cat records.  What I did know is that it was somewhat tricky to take a peek at the insides of the jewel case.  Why?  Because it’s a Super Jewel Box, folks.  It is true, for instead of merely flipping open the jewel case I had to press down on an official spot.  That caused the plastic fortress to open up and reveal a CD with a giant illustration of a bug on it.  The booklet had to be slid out from the top of the disc.  Whoa!  This is a heavy duty presentation, as if the case was constructed to contain something powerful.  Indeed, Lento brought the force in many ways.

For a majority of the seven tracks, Lento dirge it up so that you are always slowly headbanging with each power riff.  These Italians can truly lay it on thick and powerful, for songs like “Need” is pure muscle at a melodic pace.  Understand that Lento’s music is not any kind of speedy effort, but instead is more meditative with its rock.  A good comparison would be Godspeed You Black Emperor (GYBE) or Explosions In the Sky, except heavier.

As for “Need”, the song chugs along with a permeating tension before repeated blasts of power chords strike around the middle of the tune.  As one might expect from an instrumental band that compares a bit to GYBE or Explosions in the Sky, the repeated tempo changes throughout the song maintain the interest level as well as fluctuate the mood.  Lento does not always shake things up, for the following track “Subterrestrial” is an absolutely bleak three minutes of barren hollowness.  If “Need” provided any energy, “Subterrestrial” sucks it all out.

The rest of the album fluctuates from these volume extremes.  While “Currents” and “Earth” continue the deep power strums and dark, emotional content, songs like “Emersion of the Islands” and “Leave” utterly wash away any built up tension.  It’s like sticking an ice cube down the back of someone’s shirt and then blasting them with a hair dryer; these songs give off completely opposite reactions.  I will say that the long goodbye of “Leave” (at nearly ten minutes) doesn’t do as much for me as “Emersion for the Islands”, mainly because “Leave” has nothing going on except a long, moonscape-walking static sound.  Great in space, numbing on Earth.

“Emersion for the Islands” has a very pleasant periodic strum of a guitar that acts as, for lack of a better description, a drop of warm honey on the shoulders that slowly drips down.  This causes a calming effect and makes for a wonderful meditative piece.  The song would also be a perfect soundtrack for that desert scene in “No Country For Old Men” where a gun battle took place but no one knows why.  Unlike its predecessors, the song is heavy in a completely different way.

If you’re into metal, definitely check Lento out at their MySpace page.

Although Lento hasn’t put out anything new since this record (as far as I can tell online, that is), this would still be a good record to pick up for a different kind of metal experience.  I like the various moods that the band inflict on the listener, especially with the songs that sound like they want me to go to sleep only to blast me awake with the next tune.  Some may say that a band should stick to one sound so that fans can predict what they will like from them, but in the case of Lento I think they made the right choice in expressing how far their sonic boundaries will go.  If they ever put out something new, I look forward to hearing if they’ve veered more towards one extreme than the other.

Warship – Supply and Depend

July 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Vagrant Records, 2008

There is nothing to comment about that album cover; it is epically awesome.  It’s got that sweet, swirling metal font for the band name, a 1776-like album title ribbon, and the excellently artful battleship in the middle.  Didn’t care what they sounded like… well, sorta already knew thanks to it being a Vagrant release.  This is the sort of album cover that one wishes to blow up to poster size and just stick it somewhere prominent.  If anyone cares, some guy named Brad Bacon created it.  Nice one.  Oh, onto the music…

Warship oscillate between heavy metal and hardcore throughout the album, which succeeds in making something that could easily fall into monotony something more enjoyably diverse.  Well, diverse for loud, heavy rock that is.  “Toil” is a typical track that involves a lot of screaming by Francis Mark and plenty of noisy help from Rob Lauritsen.  As the only two guys in the band, they both perform double duty on the critical instruments for this recording.

“Profit Over People” jacks the speed and intensity even higher, which is a level returned to often in songs like “We’ve Never Been Equal” and “Empty Vessel”.   Although Warship is often trying to maximize their presence in the listener’s air space, they do an excellent job changing tempos from song to song.  Just as “Profit Over People” seems to leave an impression that Warship will be high intensity all of the time, “Wounded Paw” provides a nice mid-tempo breather that shifts quickly back and forth from slow to fast.  Also, even though “Empty Vessel” and “The Waiting List” pounce and pulverize, the group possibly lays on their best song “Indoors” to cool off a bit into conclusion.   After a track list full of songs that seem to accuse someone of neglect and/or carelessness, the tone of “Indoors” is one of exhaustion.  Tell me about it.

Bludgeon your musical senses at Warship’s MySpace page for a few tunes.

Warship are what they are, and that is oppressive force.  If hardcore or metal are your thing then certainly go and find this record if you can.  It seems that this may be a one and done record, for the two members of the band have since carried on with other projects.  Since it was recorded not long ago, I imagine there is still a chance for the two to get back together and produce more of the heavy stuff together.  Their biggest challenge, however, is to somehow top that album cover.  I don’t think it’s possible.

Motley Crue – Girls, Girls, Girls

June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Elektra Records, 1987

As one knows when it comes to dollar bins, one will find their mix of the obscure and the old hat.  I’ll admit, I get a slight sickly feeling when I see all those nineties bands amidst the dreck that I have to sift through.  It almost affirms that, aside from a few good indie artists that most people still have a hard time discovering (myself included sometimes), the nineties were full of mostly popular pop mush.  Thank goodness, then, that some of us at the time were still able to live off the artificial thrills of hair metal from the eighties.  Why Motley Crue ended up out of someone’s collection could be open to interpretation.  Either the person bought some sort of remastered version and is still rocking out to maximum volume … or that person has gone the way of shirt and tie and prefers Chopin and Mozart these days.  If the latter, that person is no longer walking on the wild side.  However, I have no such aversions to the dangers of hair metal yeaaaahhh!!!

Of course, any American living through those fist-pumping glitz and excess days of the late 80s know all about Motley Crue.  They were rude, crude, and liked to party all night with girls … girls, girls.  This record came out during the full swing of their high popularity, so one has to review it in hindsight with a little bit of understanding of the period.  Then again, shouldn’t the discussion be about why one would bother to pick it up today?  True, true.  Therefore, let’s see if you really need some Motley Crue in your life these days.

“Wild Side” depicts a life that would likely frighten the parents whose kids were dabbling with hair spray and heavy makeup a few decades ago.  Really, though, this song spoke to me as a boy from southern New Hampshire.  “Hollywood dream teens/yesterday’s trash queens” totally describes New England suburbia, and I lived that.  “Forward my mail to me in hell” describes my rebellious thoughts when I was sent to the ‘Silent Table’ in elementary school when I bopped my friend on the head during lunch.  Even though this song may not describe everyone’s gritty childhood life, “Wild Side” is still a fantastic rock ‘n roll anthem that must get the crowds really going at reunion concerts.  The riffs that Nikki Sixx delivers are still excellent throughout.

Of course, the title track is one of the few tracks that you buy this album at all for.  It’s classic, even if these guys might get some serious flak these days by the PC police for writing “Yankee girls ya just can’t beat/But they’re the best when they’re off their feet”.  Well, maybe they wouldn’t, since certain hip hop artists have no trouble saying it like it is and hardly a mumble is made.  Regardless, the tune is certainly one of the many anthems of that age.

One song that the group should never have bothered to throw on the record is “Nona”, which is an airy ditty that only goes on for one and a half minutes.  Where did this come from?  Why bother?  Perhaps the producer said to them hey, you’ve been sounding the same for the past four tracks so let’s throw in something to break up a little of the monotony.  KISS had a few of these kinds of tunes that showed their sensitive side, true, but I can’t imagine anyone was buying it from these guys in the late eighties.  Total tosser of a track.  At least “You’re All I Need” sounds like a halfway decent ballad later on the record.

The rest of the album is as one would expect with Neil’s sneering lyrics about the rock n roll life with Sixx’s deft guitar riffs.  Songs like “All in the Name of Rock” and “Sumthin For Nothin” hardly stand out, but they fill the record well in the same vibe as the more popular tracks.  The live cover version of “Jailhouse Rock” isn’t very memorable, so I imagine it was included to give those a taste of what a live Crue show was like.  Perhaps Motley Crue wanted to attract the ’50s crowd and lure more confused parents to the shows.

Motley Crue is, of course, still touring.  They look a little morose on their website, so perhaps one should just listen (or go see) them instead.

Even though they’re plentiful in dollar bins everywhere, very rarely will I bother with picking up a mainstream record from an age that has long passed.  I can’t stomach picking up most nineties stuff, (due to worn out grunge or electopop singles) and there’s virtually nothing from the early 2000s that is worth a grab.  However, classic hair metal is sometimes hard to pass up due to some really enjoyable tunes lurking amidst the camp and glitz.  So yeah, picking up a decent Motley Crue album was worth it for me for a few good songs and memories.

If you end up seeing an album from a time gone by, consider picking it up to relive those days a bit.  And who knows?  The artist may still be on an endless reunion tour for you to go see them!