Spirits Surround Us on Every Side

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari was wonderful, even better than I expected. Despite a little bit of a sore neck due to a slightly late arrival resulting in front row seats, this film is probably one of the finest examples of silent cinema that I’ve ever seen. Strange yet beautiful set design, a really creepy atmosphere throughout and fantastic early use of camera tricks and special effects, it’s hard to believe that it’s nearly 100 years old.

Aside from an excursion to the cinema, and chalking off number 175 of the 1,001 movies list in the process, I’m finally back at my own flat after looking after my brother’s cats for a week while he was on his honeymoon. Best man duties finally over, this week is going to be about cramming in as much editing, music and movies as possible, so I’ll likely be posting plenty of updates as I go through all of that.

As it’s now technically the wee hours of Monday morning, there are a few new releases I’ve noticed on Spotify that I’ll be hoping to check out later in the morning when I get up. The first one that’s caught my attention is the new Yob album, Clearing the Path to Ascend, on Neurot Recordings. I’m going to see these guys with Pallbearer on Saturday night, which I’m really looking forward to, so I’ll try to give this as many spins as I can before the gig. Looking forward to seeing Pallbearer, who were my band of the weekend at Hellfest 2013. With their excellent second album out recently, which was the inspiration for the name of this blog (i.e. total plagiarism), I’m hoping for another great gig.

Some Things We Do

Instead of chilling out with some films last night, I ended up going a bit further with my Terrorizer #250 mission, edging ever closer to the end of what will eventually be a near 36-hour journey. Continuing the globetrotting theme of the last post, the next album I listened to was from the Russian band Sickrites, called Irreverent Death Megaliths [3/5]. On France’s Osmose Productions (whose catalogue once upon a time used to boast Enslaved, Immortal, Marduk et al.), this is some pretty decent black/death metal, with a raw production that reminds me of the old Antaeus records, which Osmose also released. Despite not being as prolific as they once were, it’s heartening to see Osmose remaining so active on the world underground metal scene, and continuing to sign new and interesting bands like this to their roster. Long may it continue.

Sickrites - Irreverent Death Megaliths [3/5]
Sickrites – Irreverent Death Megaliths [3/5]

This morning, the playlist then went to new levels of magnificence with the latest Swans album, To Be Kind [5/5]. I’ve listened to this one a lot already, and it’s definitely going to be right up there for me with the best albums released this year. Ever since seeing them live on the My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky tour in Glasgow (earplugs were being handed out for free at the door), I’ve been hooked on them, and I’ve seen them another three times since, for which my eardrums did not thank me. I’d never paid them much attention until that reunion, but I’ve since gone back and checked out their amazing back catalogue as well. Their last album, 2012’s The Seer, was such a masterpiece that I don’t think anyone expected they’d be able to follow it up so strongly, particularly in such a short period of time, but To Be Kind sits alongside its predecessor in equal standing for me. Deep, emotional, and poignant to near breaking point, this album also demonstrates a wonderful fragility and humanity in the songwriting. Albums like this don’t come along too often – albums that make you sit up and stop what you’re doing when you realise you’re on to something special. A two-hour album that flies by in what seems like no time as it encapsulates you and takes you along for the ride.

Swans - To Be Kind [5/5]
Swans – To Be Kind [5/5]

Took some time out of editing work and music listening to kick back with Soccer Saturday and all the Premier League results. My fantasy football team has gotten off to a horror start, and this week isn’t looking much better at this rate.

Next on the Terrorizer #250 playlist was a Serbian neofolk solo project, Tamerlan, with the album Ain [3/5]. First impressions are that this guy has listened to a lot of Sol Invictus, but there’s definitely a slight hint of some black metal leanings in here too with some of the melodies used. Actually a nice bit of “easy listening”, but not the most original or evocative neofolk I’ve ever heard. 

Tamerlan - Ain [3/5]
Tamerlan – Ain [3/5]

My mate Joe was telling me last night about a grindcore band called Urine Festival that just have urine splashing noises instead of vocals. I hunted for them immediately, of course. I was in stitches as soon as the “vocals” kicked in.

Also, does anyone remember that story from around 2003 that Killjoy (from Necrophagia) and Phil Anselmo were working on an album of nothing but recordings of them squashing and killing bugs? I wonder what happened to that …

Ended up winding down tonight by watching Blazing Saddles, another film that hasn’t aged particularly well in my opinion. Even though it’s another one checked off the list, it was a bit of a disappointment. Going to see The Cabinet of Dr Caligari tomorrow at the GFT with a friend I haven’t seen in ages, which I am looking forward to immensely. Next week I’m going to need to power through more music during the day and get through more films in the evenings.

Into the Crypts of (Crepuscular) Rays

Well, as expected, the new Sólstafir album, Ótta [5/5], is incredible. The “Icelandic cowboys” have taken what they did on 2011’s brilliant Svartir Sandar to new levels of beautiful melancholy and reigned everything in a little for arguably a more cohesive end product. I’ve given it a couple of spins already, but it’s one of those albums that as soon as it ends, my only instinct is to hit play again. There’s a subtlety and a fragility to the arrangements that is beyond mesmerising, and the vocals are full of emotion, perhaps even despair, with every mournful minute that passes more engaging than the last. Highly recommended as one of the best releases of 2014.

Solstafir - Ótta [5/5]
Solstafir – Ótta [5/5]

After this, it was on to a whole other extreme as I went back to Terrorizer #250 and started working my way through the reviewed albums from where I left off yesterday. First off was the recent reissue of the second Sarcófago album, Rotting [4/5]. Despite being really into black metal, I’ve never checked out these influential Brazilians, so I was going into this pretty blind. Can’t believe it’s taken me so long to check them out properly. This is a perfect example of early black metal from 1989, with more than a big nod to the early Morbid Angel sound in there too. It’s got that sort of cavernous production sound down to a tee, which I think was perfected (and never equalled) on Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Well worth checking out, but I get the feeling I’m one of the last ones to the (alcohol-fuelled) party with this one. Opening line of the first song, “Alcohol Coma”: “Sitting in my room sodomising a bitch. I open a Smirnoff and start to drink.” That’s some black metal poetry right there.

Sarcófago - Rotting [4/5]
Sarcófago – Rotting [4/5]

Then it was on to some sludge metal from the UK from the excellently named Sea Bastard, with their third album, the four-track Scabrous [3/5]. This actually came out last year, but seems to have been picked up by the Mosh Tuneage label for a rerelease. Again, not a band (or label) I was familiar with previously. I guess I’d describe their brand of sludge metal as very listenable, but not extraordinary in terms of ambition or originality. There’s absolutely nothing “wrong” with it per se, but there’s nothing that gets me all that excited either. I did just read that one of the members is in the band Sabazius, who infamously released an 11-hour(!!!) song, which I think was recorded live in one take, on Earache last year, so maybe the back-to-basics approach can be sympathised with on the back of that.

Sea Bastard - Scabrous [3/5]
Sea Bastard – Scabrous [3/5]

From the sludge of the UK to some ambient/drone/black metal goodness from the Netherlands courtesy of one-man project Seirom of Mories (aka Maurice de Jong) of Gnaw Their Tongues fame, and his fourth album under this monicker, And the Light Swallowed Everything [4/5]. I’ve been a fan of his more noisy and disturbing output with Gnaw Their Tongues for a few years now, but this is the first time I’ve checked out this project besides hearing a few tracks in passing. What we have here, rather than the provocative and claustrophobic atmosphere of Gnaw Their Tongues, is a more shoegaze-esque sound, full of much more uplifting, meandering, and dare I say beautiful passages. Immediate comparisons that come to mind are Alcest and Deafheaven, even some Anathema, but this certainly has its own unique ambience going on alongside the more obvious influences, with a few little hints in the background here and there of the more abrasive side of this multi-talented artist.

Seirom - And the Light Swallowed Everything [4/5]
Seirom – And the Light Swallowed Everything [4/5]

After this, I listened to the new album from Greece’s Septicflesh, Titan [4/5]. I’ve got a soft spot for the admittedly over-the-top orchestral style this band employs with their own brand of symphonic death metal. Same goes for a band like Fleshgod Apocalypse, albeit that the arrangements are much more restrained here. Must have something to do with Dimmu Borgir’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia being my gateway into heavier music back in 2001 that has numbed me to the pomposity of it all. Overall, Titan is very clinically executed, well polished, and incredibly catchy, despite moments like in the third track, “The Order of Dracul”, where the blasting makes way for a ridiculous harpsichord solo about halfway through. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for something that manages to be devastatingly heavy in sound but is also packed full of a great variety of memorable riffs and melodies (not to mention some exceptionally epic choir moments), this is one to check out.

Septicflesh - Titan [4/5]
Septicflesh – Titan [4/5]

Think that’ll be my lot today. It’s been a globetrotting kind of day music-wise, from Iceland, to Brazil, to the UK, to the Netherlands, to Greece. And it’s helped me get through the final stages of editing this legal book on credit law. Tonight’s plan, as it stands: kick back and try to tick off another couple of movies from the dreaded list.

I’m Sitting There Thinking …

We managed Mad Max and All the President’s Men in our 1,001 movies drive tonight. Thought Mad Max was okay. Some of the car chase sequences were great, but I wouldn’t say it’s aged particularly well. Interested to read the blurb in the book on why it’s considered one of the 1,001 movies to see before I die. I know it’s not that fair to compare the two, but I much preferred All the President’s Men. It made me very keen to do some reading on the Watergate scandal when I get a chance, as well as check out more movies with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. One thing that stuck with me was how much the music reminded me of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score for The Social Network. One of the highlights for me, in both films actually, was the subtlety of the score.

Ally shared this video of Charlie Nicholas sitting there thinking the other day, which made me laugh out loud. I try to watch Soccer Saturday every weekend, and I’ve never noticed this!

Also of note: the new Sólstafir album, Ótta, has been uploaded to Spotify (all Season of Mist stuff is uploaded on midnight going into Friday). Terrorizer gave it album of the month status in issue #252, so I’m really looking forward to checking it out in the morning. Their last album, 2011’s Svartir Sandar, was a real highlight for me that year.

Hello Cruel World

So out of nothing other than a desire to get the “writing cap” on again and to alleviate some boredom, I decided to start a blog dedicated mainly to the music I listen to on a daily basis. I’m a freelance copy-editor, so normally when I work I have the headphones on and listen to music all day long. I’m a massive music fan and have been a Spotify Premium subscriber for years now. A normal day for me involves opening Spotify, opening Word, and chucking on a set of Sennheiser HD 202 headphones.

At night, if I’m not continuing to edit manuscripts and listen to music, I normally like to watch films. I’m working my way through the 2013 edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and am currently sitting on 171 of 1,001 … so a fair bit of watching ahead of me still.

I’m also a Terrorizer subscriber, although I made the jump from a physical to a digital subscription in the last couple of years, preferring to be able to read the latest issue on my iPhone or MacBook than have the paper copies stack up in the bathroom.

So for this first entry, I’ll recap what I’ve been listening to today, which revolves around albums that were reviewed in issue 250 of Terrorizer a couple of months ago (I’m a little behind with keeping up with 2014 releases). The new issue 252 came out today too, but I’ve promised myself that I’ll get through everything that I can from 250 before moving on to 252. I knocked 251 out of the park last week.

First off, I’m working on an edit on a book on consumer credit law at the moment, which is an interesting enough read, and has been well prepared by the author, so it’s perfect for some accompanying listening. I started the day off finishing the new Monuments album, The Amanuensis [3/5], which I stopped about halfway through last night before heading to bed. It’s apparently a concept album based on Cloud Atlas. I’ve never read the book, but I really enjoyed the film, so I was intrigued to hear it. Not being a massive fan of the whole “djent” movement, it was still a fairly enjoyable listen, with very impressive lead vocals in particular, but I guess I’d have to delve a little deeper into the lyrical content and whatnot to discover the Cloud Atlas theme a bit more. The live tracks tacked on at the end didn’t really help to leave a lasting impression, though.

Monuments - Amanuensis (3/5)
Monuments – The Amanuensis [3/5]

I guess at this stage, I should try to explain my rating system for albums. I like to rate everything I listen to on Rate Your Music (here) so that I’ve got a fairly comprehensive log of everything I listen to. Same reason I’ve had a Last.fm account since 2006 (here). Basically, I work to the following system:

[1/5] Poor

[2/5] Average

[3/5] Good

[4/5] Very Good

[5/5] Amazing

Anything that gets [4/5] or [5/5] (Very Good and Amazing, respectively) gets chucked into my favourite albums of 2014 list (more on that another time perhaps, but you can take a peak here). 

After that, I checked out the new EP from Of Spire and Throne, Toll of the Wound [3/5]. I’d never heard this band before, even though they’re from just up the road in Edinburgh. Three tracks of well done sludge metal, but I did find my attention slipping a little throughout. Possibly the fault of consumer credit law, in fairness.

Of Spire and Throne - Toll of the Wound (3/5)
Of Spire and Throne – Toll of the Wound [3/5]

Then it was on to the new album from Opium Warlords, Taste My Sword of Understanding [3/5], on what is quick becoming one of the hippest labels to be on, Svart Records. I remember checking out their first album, We Meditate Under the Pussy in the Sky, a couple of years ago, and enjoying it quite a bit, and the same with this second offering. A fine listen of traditional doom with some oddball leanings. I have a feeling this one could be a grower, and I do have a desire to listen to it again soon. I think that might be because I feel like I didn’t quite “get it”, as well as the fact that Svart is usually a seal of quality these days.

Opium Warlords - Taste My Sword of Understanding (3/5)
Opium Warlords – Taste My Sword of Understanding [3/5]

Then it was on to some technical death metal from the USA, with the new album from Pillory, Evolutionary Miscarriage [3/5]. Another band I wasn’t familiar with, and another enjoyable, if not entirely groundbreaking or surprising, listen. When it comes to death metal, I’ve always been a bit more into the eerier sounding stuff, like the latest Morbus Chron album, Sweven, over this technical stuff that’s very popular at the moment. Nonetheless, I do like to keep up with what’s happening in “the scene”, as it were.

Pillory - Evolutionary Massacre (3/5)
Pillory – Evolutionary Massacre [3/5]

And right now, I’m finishing off the new Powerwolf compilation on Metal Blade, The History of Heresy I (2004–2008) [4/5]. I’ve really enjoyed this German power metal band’s last couple of albums, and they were fantastic live at Hellfest 2014. Great stuff to chuck on if you fancy something fairly simple and heavy, with plenty of catchy riffs, great vocals, and a good-humoured werewolf theme running through their stuff. This isn’t simpleton nonsense like Steel Panther, though, but a good bit of dry humour running through otherwise catchy and melodic metal that could easily stand strongly on its own without the gimmick. This compilation is a re-release of the now-hard-to-find first two albums from them, so it’s been interesting hearing these for the first time. I’ve also realised that whenever I listen to Powerwolf, it just makes me happy.

Powerwolf - The History of Heresy I (2004-2008) (4/5)
Powerwolf – The History of Heresy I (2004-2008) [4/5]

My good friend Ally is coming over tonight. He’s decided to join me in the quest to watch those 1,001 movies. At last count, he was a good 30 films ahead of me too. We’re going to try to do three tonight: All the President’s Men, Tootsie, and Mad Max. Despite being really into the Fallout video games, I surprised myself when I came to the realisation that I haven’t seen any of the Mad Max films.

Also, yes, I was looking through some of the stuff I’ve been listening to lately for inspiration for a blog name, and really liked the new Pallbearer album, Foundations of Burden, so settled on that. Hope it does the trick over the course of this blog, which I’m sure will be something of a work in progress for a little while at least.

I also chucked Spotify links to all of the albums I listened to into the album artwork, so if you click them, you should be transported there for your listening pleasure. Until next time!