Sunn 0))) - Monoliths & Dimensions

2009; Southern Lord Records; Seattle, Washington

When it comes down to it there are two sides to the avant-garde. Strip it down to the point its unrecognizable, until it hits sharp, until the emotion has no stopping block from the creater to the reciever, or keep adding keep refining keep building keep crafting until you have something that fucking shines. something massive and beautiful. The minimalists and the maximalists if you will. And wile most of the experimental music I posses falls into the former category, well, a bit of grandiose is more then welcome.

So I will be frank, out with it right up front: Sunn 0))) have crafted a masterpiece. Thats it. There is so much power in these drawn out tracks that its staggering to think about. And more then that, there is no precedence, or at least none that I know of, so trying to explain what the listening experience is like is almost futile.

And ok, drone metal is not the most fun thing in the world, and yes, at times its kind of boring. On the first track nothing at all happens for five minutes, noting interesting happens until the nine minute point. But man, just sit back. Let it wash over you. because by the time it hit the seventeen minute point and came to an end I didn't know what had happened to me. It felt like being hit by a bus. It felt like I had passed out and my mind was just starting to fizzle back into motion.

and MY GOD, i have never felt anything like it, and it had to be listened to again.

Metal's merits usualy lie in the undeniable fun it contains, its weird ability to make you feel evil and powerful and happy and, well, fuckin awesome. And somehow these two guys dressed in ridiculous black cloaks do all that and more and, damn, could somebody please get me a glass of water?

1. Aghartha
2. Big Church (Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért)
3. Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)
4. Alice


The Importance of Being Metal: Judas Priest-Stained Class

1978; Columbia Records

1. Is It Any Good?

Imagine Black Sabbath by way of Queen and you'll come up with Stained Class.

...You need to hear more? What the fuck is wrong with you?! What do I have to say, that listening to this album will make you jizz gold? I guess I can say a little more, if that first sentence didn't convince you this album is worth getting(by which I mean, if you're a communist.)

In many ways this is the quintessential heavy metal album of the '70s-loud, fast, heavy, dark, and more than a little goofy. On the surface it's nothing really more than a fun time, and truth be told that's probably the best application for it. I'll be honest with you, I'm not a fan of the phrase "on the surface" because that's code speak for "what you dipshits fail to realize is...". I don't like condescending to readers, especially not if it's in a heavy metal article-there's a special layer of hell for dorks who talk down to other people for not taking heavy metal "seriously", and I hope it's the one where you have to watch your parents die forever.

The only reason I use that phrase in this case is because there are a lot of things that you miss the first time you play Stained Class. I don't mean nuances-Judas Priest has all the subtlety of a drunk pyromaniac on the fourth of July. I mean that it's possible to get so sucked into the songs, you miss some of the song construction or some of the flourishes that really make the album enjoyable.

Take the opening and arguably greatest track on the album, "Exciter." It's totally possible to not acknowledge how truly excellent that regal little guitar solo right before the end of the song is. It can skip by you how the opening drum solo sets the tone for the rest of the song in such a way as to subconsciously ready you for the rest of the album, and you can even miss the little grin that you yourself make when all the instruments stop for just a moment to allow Rob Halford to proclaim "Fall to your knees and repent, if you please!"

You might get so enamored with air guitaring the main riff to the title track that you miss what a cool lyric "Impaled with betrayal, the tourniquet turns" is. Halford's unearthly, echoing scream of "We are Saints in Hell" during the song of the same name might distract you so much that you miss how it wouldn't have nearly as much effect without Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing's wraithlike guitars drifting through the background to create the atmosphere. And in the case of "Beyond The Realms of Death", you'll probably get so caught up in how masterfully that song builds and builds in such a cosmically emotional fashion that you don't even notice that the song is an incredibly moving, relatable morality play about loneliness and isolation.

This is primarily a headbanging album, I want that to be perfectly clear. It's function first and foremost is to entertain and provide a release, and in this it succeeds in spades. But there's an intricate, masterful craft running through the veins of Stained Class that's a remarkably rare trait of any album, much less a heavy metal one. I'm not saying that it's just a thrashing good time "on the surface" because you're an ignorant savage who doesn't understand music, I'm saying it because there are too many wonderful things going on with this album at once, so many parts that you might miss the even more excellent whole. If heavy metal is the musical equivalent of trashy pulp sci-fi books, Judas Priest, during the late '70s, was the H.P. Lovecraft of the genre, and Stained Class was their At The Mountains of Madness. No metal collection is complete without it-I might go so far as to say no music collection is really complete without it, if only for the fact that it encapsulates everything that works about this kind of music so very well.

2. Is It "Influential"?

A band named itself after the first track, Exciter. This was Judas Priest's first album to break the Billboard 200, enabling them to make later classics such as British Steel and Screaming For Vengeance. Oh, and it was not only considered the height of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the '70s, it was also one of the first albums to concretely lay the groundwork for thrash metal. It is one of the defining releases of all time and it doesn't get nearly enough credit for being so.

3. Is It A Good Entry Point For Beginners?

Everyone I've loaned this album to has been turned into a believer after hearing it-to continue with my earlier analogy earlier, there's a theatricality to every song that transcends normal likes and dislikes of heavy metal. Halford's vocals are so goofy and over-the-top as to actually cross the silliness barrier and become dramatic, and the guitarwork can only be described as "kingly" much of the time. Just about anyone can have fun listening to Stained Class, and if they can't they're generally not the kind of person who enjoys the heavier side of music to begin with. In other words, I can in good conscience recommend this to almost everybody and say it will turn them on to metal. And I do. Much to their annoyance.



Modest Mouse - No Ones First And You're Next

2009; Epic Records; Issaquah, Washington

Really, it only takes a few moments of Satellite Skin for you to ponder how this same band could possibly have made Dashboard, and perhaps how far they've come since their This Is A Long Drive days. And through the sizzle of the guitars and Isaac Brock's barely restrained shouts it just feels... good. In Satellite Skin, as well as many of the other tracks, we are moved back to his favorite subject, anger at the world, anger at himself, anger at you. And through the twisted minds of us music fanatics, that's a good thing too. A forward moving beat, and the guitars pick up a tone like fire or electricity and the shouts get louder and there is chaos and... oh man...

Chaos, as it is, is a big point on this album. Back in the day when Mouse was a power trio they had a beautiful complex simplicity. The bass interlocked with the guitar lines and the drums had a mind of their own and it was easy to pick apart and beautiful once you did. Now there's, what, six people? Sometimes more sometimes less, sometimes a brass band aswell, and there is no rhythm section, every instrument is going off to do its own thing, to duke it out with the others, and it swarms your ear, and by god you cannot pick it apart, cannot tell where each player is going, find any pattern. And that feels good.

And when the Wale Song gets going with its drowning, circular choruses, it feels like a tornado. And when History Sticks To Your Feet peaks and simmers, Goddamn, you feel the condescension, the hate, the wariness in "well, don't you look at me like life don't hold you anymore mystery." and it boils over. And in King Rat he demands that WE HAVE ALMOST HIT THE BOTTOM AND WE WANT TO KEEP SINKING, and you get that no This is not just some indie pop band, this is not some sell out, this is Modest Mouse. GODDAMN.

1. Satellite Skin
2. Guilty Cocker Spaniels
3. Autumn Beds
4. The Whale Song
5. Perpetual Motion Machine
6. History Sticks to Your Feet
7. King Rat
8. I've Got It All (Most)

well happy fucking congratulations


The Importance of Being Metal: Anthrax-Among the Living

1987; Island/Megaforce Records

1. Is It Any Good?

It is good. It's not terribly interesting to talk about, because it's an incredibly straightforward collection of music, but it is worth listening to.

Here's the requisite part of any review when you talk about Anthrax: They're considered to be one of the Godfathers of modern American metal music, along with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth. They don't get nearly as much respect or acclaim as any of those three bands, however, and in a lot of ways it's easy to see why. Don't get me wrong-this is a good album, in many ways it's probably better than anything Slayer has ever done. The problem is that it's not terrifically memorable.

There are, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of things to like about this album. The title track is a little uninteresting, but it quickly subsides into "Caught In A Mosh", Anthrax's signature anthem and one of the greatest metal songs ever released. Seriously, that song is a force of nature and it's one of the most appropriately titled pieces of music of all time-you're going to find it impossible not to jump around and scream and hit people once this song gets going. It makes the album worth owning all by itself.

"Eflinikufelsin(N.F.L)" is a song about Jim Belushi, of all fucking things, and it's a pretty good one at that, talking about the remorse the band feels for an obviously talented his guy who screwed his life away taking drugs and alcohol. It could be a Minor Threat song, honestly. That gives way to "A Skeleton In The Closet", a speeding tank of a song with an absolutely monstrous bassline and a blistering, driving drumline that launches the song into a league of it's own when it comes to intensity.

Aside from the songs mentioned, and the closer-"Imitation of Life", a funny sendup of the commercialization of metal-there's not too much to talk about with this one. The only outright stinker is "Indians", an embarassingly weepy song about the Trail of Tears. Don't get me wrong, it's a subject that's rife for metal, but when you have the singer crooning "Crrryyyy for the indians!" backed by a chorus of "CRY! CRY!" from his bandmates, pretty much any chance of being taken seriously is shot to hell. The rest of the songs aren't necessarily bad, but they're not memorable, which makes an album composed of 4 amazing tracks, 4 mediocre ones and 1 clunker.

All that being said, I'll take 4 incredible tracks out of 9 out of an album that's only okay the entire way through. The great stuff here is really amazing and memorable. The stuff that isn't so great...well, it makes you see why the only thing people remember about this band is "Bring tha Noise". I guess what I'm trying to say is: Get it used.

2.Is It "Influential?"

I'm not absolutely positive, but this album is held in pretty high regard in some circles, and this is probably the most well liked release from one of the kings of thrash, so I'm sure it's gotten a small slew of musicians to try and make it to the big time.

3. Is It A Good Entry Point For Beginners?

I'm going to go with yes. This band's rhythm section is probably the most underrated in all of metal and the band can consistently make catchy, if not terribly original, riffs and hooks. The vocals aren't intense enough to scare anyone off and the instrumentation is intense enough to give a rookie a good idea about what good thrash should sound like. In many ways, it's almost a perfect place to introduce somebody to the big leagues of metal.



Passion Pit-Manners

2009; Frenchkiss Records

The very moment I finished paying for this album, I had a few thoughts: Am I still allowed to review music? How far will my balls shrink once this is in my collection? And just how should I go about killing myself?

Then I turned on "Little Secrets" and I cracked a grin as long as the Golden Gate. Fuck being cool, fuck knowing what I'm talking about. This music makes me happy.

It's important to understand that you're not going to want to like Manners. Nobody wants to like this album-go read the Pitchfork review and you get the feeling that the critic was feeling pretty ashamed of himself by the end of the analysis, that he scaled his score back to an 8.1 because he didn't want to piss off fans of "serious" music. And yeah, if I was one of those retards who believed in the idea of "guilty pleasures", this would probably fit right in that spot.

Here's the thing: Manners is something of an anomaly because it does not, at all, even a little bit, even the teensiest tiniest amount, give a shit what you think about it. It is an old man wearing a bright pink suit on a rainy day. It absolutely defies concepts such as elitism and, to a certain extent, taste. It doesn't really matter if you're the biggest Godspeed You! Black Emperor buff on the planet, if Pantera has a 24/7 rotation on your playlist, if you thought The Blueprint 3 was the best album of the year or if you wear a Medal of Honor for defending the Merriweather Post Pavilion-the second you hear that child chorus kick in with "Higher and higher and higher, higher and higher and higher", you're gonna smile, and you might feel a little weird about it. That's okay. Everyone else feels a little weird about it too.

That's because this isn't an album you're really supposed to form an opinion on, it's not something you're supposed to take apart and analyze. If you love it, that's okay too, but it's also not really designed to be lauded-all it really asks is that you enjoy it. That you realize that hey, it's okay to put aside your ideas of what's good and what's bad and tacky and complex and all that other bullshit we use to describe music. It's not good and it's not bad, the same way a person isn't good and isn't bad. It's happy. Like a person is happy.

Ask yourself this: How much does sincerity count for in your book? Does it count for a lot? What about whimsy? Do you like fun? Not fun music, necessarily, just things that are fun in general? Could you see yourself enjoying a sunny day with someone who's company you cherish?

Than give Manners a shot. I'm not saying you're going to like it, I'm not even saying you should like it. I'm saying that if you are, or you ever were, capable of putting aside your pretensions and enjoying something for the sake of itself, for the sake of joy, there's something in this album that can reach into you and turn a light on. I'm not saying it will. Just that it can.

To me, in the here and now, in the Golden Age of cultural "expertise" and opinions constructed like forts from myriad sources, something that can break through all that is something special. Don't worry, it's not an intruder. Just a messenger.

Here to deliver a singing telegram.

  1. Make Light
  2. Little Secrets
  3. Moth's Wings
  4. The Reeling
  5. Eyes As Candles
  6. Simming In The Flood
  7. Folds In Your Hands
  8. To Kingdom Come
  9. Sleepyhead
  10. Let Your Love Grow Tall
  11. Seaweed Song


The Antlers - Hospice

2009; Frenchkiss Records; New York City

Noise Pop is a term that should be used more in reviews. A genre that mixes experimental with catchy, cutting edge with clean melody, its amazing. Layered on white noise, buzzing, a storm behind your eyes.

As noise pop goes there are no bands as influential as My Bloody Valentine and Neutral Milk Hotel. In fact, within the world of underground rock there influence is so far reaching that its become wildly cliche to draw from their sound. Knowing that The Antlers' take influence almost exclusively from these two bands would make any jaded indie kid cast them off in an instant (and the jaded indie kid is an even farther reaching cliche).

None the less, and incredibly, The Antlers sound completely unique. Somehow, even though their influences are so transparent and used by so many other bands, they stand apart. They stand by themselves. Quiet music meant to be played loud.

And on top of that, Hospice is intense. A story with almost book like lyrics about watching someone die in a hospital, about trying to save them, about not being able to. This is packed with emotion and yet it never gets mellow dramatic, never over emotive or operatic. This is refreshing in the world of indie pop where, as of Montreal says, "we just want to emote till we're dead". And it just feels real. Fells like what you go through to grieve.

To be honest, I'm a little bit of a jaded indie fuck. I'm trying not to be. And so when I herd of this album, well, I didn't think they could pull it off. Though it would be over done or under done or just not worth it or unoriginal. Thank you for proving me wrong. Fuck yes.