Tag Archives: metal

Opeth Builds a World of Nostalgia and Trance

Opeth has made waves in recent albums as longtime fans noted a change in theircreative direction.  Any time Opeth is mentioned it provokes the debate of whether or not it’s for the best.  Regardless Opeth still knows how to synthesize a visually appealing aesethetic and a set list bound to appease even the most stringent fan.

I won’t deny that there is a major difference between Opeth’s older music and their newer stuff.  It’s obvious.  Their newer stuff has more pronounced jazz and rock elements and subdued more modern aspects of metal.  I feel like much of it is a nod to music from the ’70s.  Given I really enjoy music from that era I see it as a boon.  What did make it feel like a ’70s throwback were the psychedelic visuals and emphasis on red and yellow lighting.  It certainly harkens to a different period, and I question the meticulous attention to detail.  There seems to be a clear purpose in going this direction but I can’t figure out if it’s for artistic or personal preference. 

 As for their older content it stands strong in its own merit.  Ot was amazing to watch the audience dynamic go from a subtle rocking out (at least compared to the rest of the night) to the same frenzy found with the other acts.  When the older songs were played the frenzy came out.  It even led to a few hilarious moments where Mikael Åkerfeldt demonstrated just how well he can handle hecklers.  That is the first time I saw anyone handle hecklers with deft and poise.

Opeth was able to handle more than just hecklers and visuals. The set list itself was created in such a way where the audience truly gets lost in the musical experience.  It may be the answer to my earlier ramblings about why the meticulous recreation of ’70s aspects.  I’ll be honest it was just as easy for me to get lost in the moment there as it is for me to get lost in ’70s music.  It may just be about creating an experience rather than any particular aesethetic.

Whatever the reason Opeth provides powerful music tempered by melodic tones.  In doing so it provides the audience an experience that permits not only getting lost in the music but a sense of nostalgia and, for me, lots of enjoyment.

Technique- 4

Presentation-3

Audience Interaction-3

Brownie Points-0

Total-10

Gojira Brings the Chaos and the Order

I was excited when I finally saw an opportunity to catch Gojira live.  I expected a high energy performance.  I didn’t expect some of what ensued later in the show.

Gojira’s music is best described as primordial on the verge of creation.  Everything from from soft vocals (though at times too soft) to building up to frantic blast beats synthesized to bring one to the edge and back constantly.  The musical dissonance shared with frantic drumming and at times haunting, distorted harmonies adds a nuiance and energy that leads one into chaos.  This chaos, however, is the kind where rather than fear it one embraces it and joins the frenzy.  
I made the horrible mistake of wandering too far into the mosh pit and suffered the consequences.  The high energy in the songs reflected in the intense moshing and body surfing that ensued and calmed when the music calmed.  At one point I’m pretty sure the mosh pit extended the entire section before the stairs.  I’m sure the band was aware of this, as everything fit so perfectly in their performance from visual effects timed just right to convincing nearly the entire audience to put their phones away and join the chanting.  I consider that a huge feat in today’s electronic times, and it enhanced the experience.  In spite of it being chaotic it brought everyone together to each other and to the music.

Gojira puts on a show equally intense as their music.  They know how to work their audience and bring them together to take the music to another level.

Technique- 3.9

Presentation-3

Audience Interaction-3

Brownie Points-0

Total-9.9

The Devin Townsend Project Brings a Tour de Force of Social Awkwardness 

This isn’t my first time reviewing The Devin Townsend project, but I will start it off probably the same way.  My bias in favor of them still stands.

Musically The Devin Townsend Project offers a plethora of styles, all of which deliver with tenacity and artistry only matched by a frontman who pokes fun at his own idiosyncrocies.  The powerhouse vocals tied together earth shaking drums and rolling bass lines deliver the poetics found in prog metal with the gritiness found in extreme metal.  This isn’t easy to pull off, and sometimes the timing was off due to excessive banter or missing the high notes.  Despite overdoing it to the point of hindrance that over the top embellishment added to the songs and brought something to folks already familiar with the work. 
 Not only was it more engaging, it was obvious the years of experience brought a clear command of audience interaction.  Whenever it seemed like he was losing the audience Townsend found a way to rile them up again, be it singing along, counting down to “March of the Poozers”, or cracking jokes about being out of place and a dad possibly out of his element.  Any mishap was handled by distracting the audience so well I didn’t even catch it (I only know it happened because he admitted to it, so kudos for getting one past me).  Even the sound quality was a far cry better than last time, which I would expect from a decent venue and incredible sound engineers.  

There was something that I felt was a little off about this area: the set list.  I honestly expected more from the “Transcendence” album, though I welcomed hearing music from “Z2” and older albums.  I also didn’t expect to hear songs like “Deadhead” so soon in the set list (that song was fourth if I recall).  I surmise that it had to do with the flow of the energy, which this set kept constant.  Regardless everyone had a good time, myself included.  

Technique- 3.65

Presentation-3

Audience Interaction-3

Brownie Points-0.25

Total-9.9

Overkill: 2/19 at The Granada

I’ll admit at the risk of whatever minuscule cred I had I was excited to learn Overkill was still around, as I thought they kind of faded away into obscurity. I was intrigued to learn they were touring and would end up in my neck of the woods. Then again, I’m usually intrigued when the midwest isn’t overlooked. These thrash metal veterans have been around since the 80’s, which is pretty much when thrash began. Overkill managed to avoid one of the things that more established bands suffer: a performance that’s caught in their glory days and presents a stale act. What I caught on stage was a band who didn’t act as some relic to the past, but ones who understood their history shaped who they are as performers.

This band manages to keep the old school elements of thrash metal while still keeping it fresh. It had the typical elements of thrash metal such as blast beats, fast tempos and, well, thrashing guitars. Where they tend to deviate from old school is they are willing to play with tempo and overall structure of the song,. It doesn’t randomly play in either a fast or moderato tempo as thrash metal tends to do. The lyrics, while a bit heavy on the end rhymes at times, delivered the right cadence and tone to match the genre. The music overall was paired with an electric performance.

These guys know how to put on a show. They were able to relate to the audience about their previous time stopping by the area and made it seem memorable. They also reminisced a bit about their time as a whole, but worked it in as a segue to other songs or psyching up the audience rather than ramblings of veteran musicians. This showed me how much thought and experience they have to balance that old school status without it appearing they’re trapped in nostalgia. They did, however, do some stuff that I didn’t like.

Overkill likes to build suspense, and I don’t know if it was because I knew what they were doing or if they overdid it that annoyed me. To me if felt like constant waiting. I was waiting for the set the finish checking things, I was waiting for the fog machine to deliver the right amount, I waited for the frontman to return to the stage after leaving during the interlude, I waited even more for the band to arrive on stage in the first place. I felt impatient and was wondering at some times how long I’d be left waiting again. I think, however, whatever the reason I grew impatient the payoff with the audience was enhanced despite my sentiment.

Everything about this band surged the audience into a frenzy. They were ready to thrash by the time Overkill hit the stage. It even got crazier with a few audience members sending questionable liquids flying. It got so out of hand the band had to ask people to calm down and lay off the flying liquids. Naturally a sex joke was made from it and laughter ensued. This showed me how much influence Overkill had and were aware of it. That is rare to find in a band, even experienced ones. By the end of the set the audience was calling for an encore. If it was an encore or planned manipulation I couldn’t say, but the audience felt like it was one and loved it.

Overkill has taken years of experience as musicians and performers to create an act that is still powerful and emotionally charged. In combining those experiences and willingness to be open to the audience they know the audience will be open to them and enjoy themselves. I’m not sure I can repeat myself anymore so I’ll cut to the score:

Technique-3.75

Presentation-2.75

Audience Interaction-3

Brownie Points-0

Total- 9.5

Nile: 2/19/17 at The Granada

I’ll admit when I first researched Nile and found out they’re a metal band that blends Ancient Egyptian aspects I had my doubts. Based on my personal experience such combinations don’t work out well. It tends to be hoakey or the synthesis is clunky and incomplete. As a Kemeticist with a strong bias I knew it was going to make me a hard sell. When I saw Nile perform, however, those doubts faded and the bias moved in the other direction.

One of things I really appreciate is their blend of Ancient Egyptian aesthetics with metal in a way that felt natural. While most recognize their combination of passages from Ancient Egyptian works, namely the Book of the Dead, I recognized other elements commonly associated with Ancient Egyptian music may have sounded like (no known Ancient Egyptian musical notation survives, so most of the elements of Ancient Egyptian music are guesses). Such elements where instruments mimic the sistrum (I didn’t see one in use, so I’m assuming cymbals were used instead) really tied it together with sparing use in ways that aren’t overbearing and don’t compromise the metal aspects. I personally appreciated how it was a true blend of ideas rather than Ancient Egyptian music randomly interjected into death metal. Everything was meticulous with drawing emphasis to the Ancient Egyptian passage. The rhythm even emphasized certain phrases with accents or employed dissonance to create the necessary build up really complimented the overall work. This is probably the only way Nile deviates from the Ancient Egyptian aspects, as Ancient Egyptians were really big on balance, and anything that could promote discord was avoided. It still works.

Musically Nile really blended the Ancient Egyptian aspects with metal, but on stage they’re metal. I’ll admit the Kemeticist in me hoped they would greet the audience with “em hotep”, but that would be impractical and hamming it up a little. Regardless of my desires Nile still showed a lot of love for the audience. They made a point to not only give a shout out to Overkill, but to Whoracle and pretty much everyone. It even felt like sincere appreciation. They certainly needed grace as, like Whoracle, their songs were subjected to the lights flickering at seizure-inducing rates. They worked with it and brought not only typical metal fanfare of headbanging but fist pounding and getting the audience as excited as they seemingly were.

Nevertheless the music and stage mannerisms were well received by the audience. Almost from the very beginning of the set Nile had the audience wrapped around their little finger. There were metal horns, headbanging, moshing, and just all around moshpit frenzy during the first song all the way to the last. I feel like at any point they could have even persuade the audience to do anything they desired. I can’t remember the last time I saw metalheads act like that at a concert, if ever. I’m genuinely impressed.

Biases aside Nile blends elements that are diametrically opposed elements in a way that brings out the best in both. As performers they deliver in stage persona and energetic enthusiasm that permeates the audience. Here’s how they scored:

Technique: 3.5

Presentation: 2.75

Audience Interaction: 3

Brownie Points: 0

Total: 9.25

Interview with Natasian Brian Hensley

I was messaged by musician Natasian Brian Hensley about looking at his band 13 Palaces ov the Earthen Sleep. What was originally meant to be a few questions about his band eventually turned into scheduling a phone interview. After some phone tag we got a hold of each other. Seeing as I can’t ask productive questions I prepared him for the dumbest and most inane questions possible. He kindly assured me he could soldier through them.

I asked him tell me a little bit about the band. “It started off as a solo project, um, a little story about that was I was in this band called Alternate Shadow with a buddy of mine back in probably around 2002. Well, you know when you have a band you’ve got different people trying to put their input into the whole band. I had a lot of ideas that at the time that my current band I was in wasn’t into but I kinda wanted to make them go into my little project, so I then I started 13 Palaces ov the Earthen Sleep as my side project. The original plan wasn’t for it to be a solo project, but it evolved into a solo project. So now currently Bleu Joëlle is collaborating with me. We’ve yet to have any recordings for that, I think she’s still working on lyrics for that.”

When asked about his artistic influences Natasian said, “As far as what [are my] influences and my lyrical content [is influenced by] it has to do with a lot of things. Presence of darkness, the sound, the atmosphere, technicality with constructive purposes, positivity mixed with ideas of other worldly religions, all kinds of different things. So I guess a lot of my influences come from own ideas and the way I feel about things. Now as far as musical bands I listen to who influence me, I’d probably say along the lines of , you know, a lot of different kinds of stuff. Like if I was going to get into the heavy metal aspect bands like Hypocrisy, Gojira, DSI, there are so many of them really.” Natasian remarked as an aside, “I don’t base my style off of any other bands’ style. I don’t try to mimic any other band. I try to be unique.” He then continued citing other genres influence him too like swing, jazz, techno, and darkwave.

I took that opportunity to ask him about darkwave, as I’m an idiot who’s never heard of the genre. “When I think of darkwave it’s kind of a techno-ish with minor chords, minor notes, minor chord progressions…it’s kind of like techno with a sinister sound to it. You build upon it with lots of different drum patterns and change ups.”

Natasian and I wandered into a discussion of the variety of tools and instruments he worked with while recording and composing. He briefly mentioned how he combined software and how it works with his creative process. When he mentioned how that helped with his internet presence I asked him, since 13 PotES started around 2004, if he felt evolving his band with the internet served to his advantage. “Oh yeah, absolutely. In my current income bracket, given what the internet provides for me with a few programs to pretty much operate at a level that back in the 80’s or 90’s didn’t get to so easily. I mean, as far as reaching crowds of people, playing show after show, and get your demo circulated the internet helps to speed all that up. Where it used to take mailing lists where people would buy your demo or maybe your friends would pass it around and eventually you’d get around to a crowd, now you can post a song on facebook and within minutes a hundred people can already hear it.” He noted how when promoting himself he used free sites like YouTube and ReverbNation to upload his music and works in progress. I asked him since he found this advantageous if he agreed with people who say the music industry is changing into a cottage industry.

“Oh yeah, absolutely. One guy can do everything pretty much; from promoting the band, to writing the music, recording the music, as long as you’ve got the ability to play the music and write, I mean, one guy could do everything. The whole world back in the 80’s and 90’s where you had the record label construct bands based on what they thought was going to sell and then the smaller bands wouldn’t get any radio play, none of that is even viable anymore because with so many different kinds of people with different kinds of musical tastes out there right now. Any artist can pretty much stand up and say, ‘You know, I wanna play this kind of music and maybe not even put a label on it as far as genre,’ and just kinda do whatever you wanna do and still be successful at a certain kind of level (depending on what you consider successful).” He admitted it will be more challenging when he gets more of a band assembled and starts booking shows in addition to more promotion, all while keeping ticket prices at a minimum. “I’m not trying to get rich in 5 years off of a certain amount of shows. I just feel a little more personal about the music. I do it for fun. I enjoy doing it.”

During the lull I back tracked to ask him how he met Bleu Joëlle and began collaborating with her. “We first met through Craigslist. I don’t quite remember if I saw her ad she posted or if she saw mine. I think we both were posting ads trying to find new musicians to get together and, you know, jam with and, you know, try to get something rolling. We were both living in Indianapolis […] then right around the same time I had some other musicians that I had met and some that I had already known for a while, Billy Miller, he was in Alternate Shadow back in the day before I started 13 Palaces […] the first time we jammed we set up a meeting to meet this guy called Tom Fox, who was in a band called Blood Drive. He lives out in Plainfield which is out by Bleu Joëlle, and I guessed they talked about getting together jamming out before I knew either one of them. But I guess it never work out, and what we ended up planning was that me and Billy would come pick up Bleu Joëlle, and then we went to Tom’s and just kind of jammed out […] and what has happened with that situation, though, it never formed into anything permanent. Me and Bleu Joëlle are still continuing to collaborate, I’m still talking to Tom, and I still talk to Billy and everything.” Natasian divulged his future plans to work again with Tom and Billy in another band, and would love to include other artists. “I might be pulling them into 13 Palaces, and eventually I’m willing to juggle both of them [the other band and 13 Palaces] back and forth, and Bleu Joëlle is definitely going to be on 13 Palaces. She’s got some lyrics written for a few of my songs that I’ve put together, we’ve yet to get any kind of recordings yet, like I said, but I’m anxious to hear what she’s got working. She’s a very versatile musician. She definitely speaks French, and I don’t speak French, but I think it’s kinda cool to hear some other languages in the lyrics. The accents brings a different vibe to the music, and it opens up to another audience too.”

Since he mentioned other projects and songs I asked if he was going to release an album or future songs anytime soon. While he has uploaded more songs as of this publication he did answer about the album. “Well, I’m definitely looking at putting an album together as soon as we can get the recording together. I mean, I already have some albums. It’s a matter of which songs will go on which albums. One album is ‘Dark Palaces United’, which is my second album actually. My first album is ‘Skeleton Fool’, and the third album is ‘Face in Green Blood’. I’ve really got albums together but as far as on the internet you don’t really get them by album, you get them by individual songs […] But all those are pretty much already on album […] I pretty much have enough written for about 8 albums already. They’re pretty much written, they’re going to be demo albums. As far as professional albums, that’s definitely what I want to work for towards the future. But there’s a lot of things that has to happen in my life as far as getting financing [and] to get the artists I really need.” As he described the challenges of finding an artist he’s looking for I asked him if he felt finding compatible artists was harder thanks to the way music has changed or if it’s not any harder, just more noticeable.

“The whole fact that you don’t have to fit a certain style anymore in order to be successful or at least be in a working band or anything…people are more willing to be like, ‘OK, this person isn’t willing to play what I’m willing to play, so we’ll just kind of not jam with them and go off to do whatever I want to do by myself. Back in the day there weren’t as many musicians as there are now. There are so many musicians…” We joked about how everyone’s a musician now (even if you exclude a certain ocarina player), then discussed the sheer volume of musicians producing content on the internet. We noted how it was easier to mark the evolution of music in general and jamming with people who work with different genres.

I wrapped up the interview and thanked him for being patient with me and my stupid questions. I told him I’d try to get the interview posted in the next few days, and we chatted about composing music. This wandered into instruments we study. When we discovered we were both self studies we discussed the instruments where I admitted my fingering was terrible. He remarked with something I found inspiring. “To be honest I understand exactly what you mean because back when– I’m 34 years old now – when I was first learning guitar there was no internet. I mean, there might have been an internet in California because they’re 5 to 10 years ahead of us here but I didn’t have internet. I didn’t even know what [the] internet was. I had a few tablature books, you know. The only way I knew how to read that stuff was because I read an article in Guitar World or something where they had little lessons on how to read tablature or something. Really, I started playing by ear […] I have my own tuning that I figured out over the years that [proper tuning] doesn’t really matter, you know [..] It’s kind of something you have to experience.”

Natasian Brian Hensley’s work with 13 Palaces ov the Earthen Sleep is available on facebook as well as soundcloud.

CORRECTION: Apparently I need to fire my sound engineer because I totally misheard a couple of band names.  The band named as “Alternate Shadow” is a misprint and should be noted as Altered Shadow.  The other band named as “Blood Drive” is actually Blood Tribe.

Check Out This Artist: Exeter

Evan Marshall Ryan, an artist I’ve reviewed before, sent me a link to a video of one of his bands.  According to him they’re still fairly green and don’t seem to have much out, but I thought I’d give them a shout-out just the same.  Exeter describes themselves as metal and hard rock and it shows in the clip I was sent.

If these guys seem like your cup of whiskey tea check them out on their facebook page.  Go ahead and send them your love.