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Snailking – Storm

Snailking-Storm-CoverThis Swedish trio launches their second album next month. The artwork is oddly attractive – it’s neatly hand-drawn and almost looks like the first page of a high-quality comic book. Anyway, the five tracks average over ten minutes and contain fuzzy doom/sludge interspersed with interludes.
First of all, the sound is ideal for what these guys play. The guitar is on crushing mode with the fuzz and overdrive dialed in to perfection. Every riff sounds thick and gluey, while the drums are somewhat subdued. The kickdrum is practically underproduced (if that’s even possible), and even though the cymbals and snare are lashing everything forward, they aren’t predominant.
While the production is fitting, I’m not always convinced by the compositions. I wonder why these guys need a bass player: just put an octaver on the guitarist, nobody will notice any difference. (Unbelievably, as I’m writing this, I’m hearing the first few bass notes that diverge from the guitar chords. Only half a measure, no worries!)
I do respect bands that manage to create tons of atmosphere with just one guitar. Most riffs are just that on ‘Storm’ – and the acoustic, effects-heavy passages are quite enthralling. But sometimes, I do get the feeling my patience is being tested – albums like this should come with a little weed, I guess. My musician’s ears, while highly appreciative of the guitar effects and creative simplicity, are at times disappointed with the heavier riffs; heavy but without purpose. But subtle accents, fleeting dissonances and other tricks make these tracks worthwile. One condition: you must enjoy slow, plangent, gritty sludge.
For the fans: there’s a limited series of blue vinyl (100 pieces) exclusivey available through Consouling Sounds!

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Eleanora – ep

Cover-EleanoraEleanora’s debut EP is aptly titled ‘ep’ and features two tracks nearing eigth minutes each. The band kicked off earlier this year with a split album. The other artist was Amenra, so that’s about the best possible launch into the post-metal scene you could wish for.
“Mammon”, the first track, is a typhoon of musical violence. It’s Amenra influenced by a mind-altering substance. The beat is quick enough to lift your spirits up on a sudden emotional outburst, but it’s holding back enough to allow yourself to get dragged down in a melancolic experience. It’s entirely your choice how you want to breathe, scream or cry this opus.
The rich result comes from an almost daring composition: forget the doom and sludge here, it’s agressive post hardcore, with screamo touches that make a thorough Erlebnis possible.

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Church of Ra – S/T

CORIf I’m getting this right, the Church of Ra collective created a unique cooperative album. Every band contributed one song – the back cover mentions Amenra, Oathbreaker, Hessian, The Black Heart Rebellion, Pieces of Quiet, Hive Destruction, Sembler Death and Treha Sektori. But you won’t find eight tracks on this album. Nope, two tracks only (together worth nearly half an hour though). Apparently, the individually recorded instruments were kept separate, and remixed with other songs: the two tracks are forged out of eight others.

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Tagada Jones – 20 Ans d’ombre & de lumière

Tagada Jones - 20 ansTagada Jones! Oh man! I last saw these punkers at the Belgian Durbuy Rock Festival in 2007. It was a killer experience with the finest of French commercial nostalgia. It seems like ages ago, and quite frankly it is! I’m getting older… And so does Tagada Jones. Yet, Tagada Jones has left way younger bands of the 2007 Durbuy billing – such as Pleymo, Unswabbed, MyPollux or Stereotypical Working Class Heroes – far behind. I kind of lost track with this band from the Eastern peninsula part of France. But they still were very active and kicking since. Furthermore, they inspired a vivid hardcore scenery, also far abroad. One should only glimpse at their impressive résumé: Since these Bretons punk hardcore flock together in December 1993 (and professional some five years later), they set up an astonishing account of seven studio albums, some EP’s and a split album, a best-of in 2004 and a concert DVD. They also toured with some friends from the alternative French rock and hardcore scene (think of the ‘Le Bal des Enragés’ collective with among others Lofofora and Black Bomb A). Doing so, they scored more than 1,600 gigs and music concerts in 24 countries! Tagada Jones simply became an ‘established’ trade name (even though this sounds somehow schizophrenic for a anti-elitism hardcore band). For their twentieth aniversary Niko (vocals and guitar), Stef (guitar), Waner (bass guitar) and Job (drums) want to inspire fans from the very beginning and a whole new generation with the peculiar Tagada Jones sound. That’s why they came up – together with the French At(h)ome label – with a double feature ‘20 Ans d’ombre & de lumière’: It is a DVD and audio CD with a sampling of the Tagada Jones best of songs, with a emphasis on the live concert experience. A must hear and must have for European punk-hardcore fans.

The documentary

The DVD brings a road documentary of director Hervé-Jacques Passard. He portrays the story of Tagada Jones, the authenticity and ‘do it yourself’ attitude, the band’s two decades of playing music and sharing a comradeship, while touring the world. ‘20 Ans d’ombre & de lumière’ stands for twenty years of shadow and light. Yet, the documentary shows more happy punk moments than shady times and line-up changes (for instance the wrangling with guitar player David (1994-1997)). First of all, the DVD lacks English subtitles. That’s a pity. It even doesn’t come with native French subtitles, and would you know: These Bretons really are fast talkers when having fun and drinking some beers. On tour travelling and conversation alternates with narrative parts on the band’s history and archive footage. The director even hands the floor over to ex-band members, like former bass guitar player Pepel (1993-2003) and the very first guitar player Pascal (1993-1994) and drummer Benoit (1993-1995). The documentary shows the changing ambitions and the flourishing of the group, the extending venues, and the musical shift from total eighties punkcore, to a more punk rock style with metal riffing. This story is accompanied by great footage of billing and pictures, and early videos. We get a career view by means of every music album – starting with their first self-released cassette-tape “Mortelle Rebellion” from 1993. As ‘masters of their own thoughts’, they portray their song texts with a distinctive message and a very recognizable Tagada Jones style of music. It illustrates the development of the band and its entourage, with many concert experiences and the collaboration with other French hardcore bands. The road trip movie begins with the preparation of the 2010 Festival des Vieilles Charrues, and the packing and trip to this concert in Brittany (France). It takes a while before we get a peek of the Tagada Jones music, but it’s worth the waiting. From the traditional dragging and pulling of flight cases and travelling with a minivan in the native region, Passard takes us by plane to 2009 Taiwan and Japan – Asian countries with a very different rock tradition, as explained by Niko in the documentary. The Tagada Jones lads suit the experience, while even teaming up with the well-known Japanese metalcore band Maximum the Hormone. But the members also witness the departure announcement of drummer Boiboi/David (1995-2009). A 2003 Canadian intermezzo shows former second vocalist and sampler Gus (2000-2007). Back to France, the story picks up Tagada Jones’s part in the acclaimed French collective ‘Le Bal des Enragés’. A great atmosphere! But we also get to see the charming selfmade spirit and the playing at tiny café concerts. Look behind the scenes of a great French punk hardcore band with a long history, and throughout a journey to different parts of the world. It’s a genuine experience, even though I would love to hear some more live acts and fans going berserk.
The second chapter of the DVD ‘Le Zapping’ has no real added value. It just is a perpetual mix-up of on the road conversations and concert preparation, bits of interview, lots of silliness and a succession of chatter ‘en français’. Very amusing to watch. With funny man Job as a leading actor. The third DVD part is more interesting, with eight live songs – almost every song is a first-quality gig recording. This live feature bundles Tagada Jones’s best songs (‘Combien de temps encore’, ‘Zéro de conduit’, ‘La traque’, ‘Cauchemar’, ‘Descente aux enfers’, ‘Cargo’, ‘W’ & ‘Le feu aux poudres’) and the concert sound really is bad ass. A very welcome warming-up for the added audio CD.

The album

This best-of CD truly honors the Tagada Jones zest. It is a genuine best-of, with great alternative metal and punk acts. All the pieces of music are live, and were recorded recently: Most of them at the 2013 Betizfest. The band members gave their best, no doubt about that: The listener will embrace this punk music with a lot of body, speed and energy. The disc simply forms a great fit, as ‘Un kulte’ proves (track 11): The thundering drums and massive guitar play only is swamped by the power – who will disagree? – of the leading man vocals Niko. These vigorous screamo, powerful punkish guttural sounds really lead to the core of Tagada Jones’s sound. At the very end of this live track, you are only given a short round of applause and bam! No compromises made, you better be ready for the next firm burst of energy ‘Les connards’ (track 12). This summarizes the intensity of the audio CD. The drive of the sixteen track disc always is fast and with a no-nonsense flavour. From the start of the first track ‘Les nerfs à vif’, accompanied by some samples you can also discover on other tracks (such as track 3 ‘Pavillon noir’), the listener faces the Tagada Jones soundwall. The band brings non-stereotypical and no-nonsense live music, and always is generous with its energy. It has an American style hardcore punk, but with themes true to the band’s world view, and with some surprising melodious guitar riffs and drum playing metal hints. The live experiences of course are much to the good. My favorite ‘Cargo’ (track 9), and probably the best known Tagada Jones song, is the sing-a-long track which really captures the concert’s drive. What an awesome sound tuition! But Tagada Jones also regards some newer songs, e.g. track 2 ‘Yec’hed mad’. Other great live pieces of music are ‘Le feu aux poudres’ (track 15) and ‘La traque’ (track 16): Songs with lots of body and echoing enthusiasm. Before you know it, the CD has ended, and you will give it another spin! This brings me to the (only) weak spot of this best-of CD. Over more than one hour of footage, it often struggles to capture the live concert atmosphere. Maybe because the sound recording is just too smooth – I would have liked it to bring a more rough, crunchy and raw sound. With some more bass and stronger drums. OK, we sometimes hear the interaction with the crowd, like on the intro of track five ‘Descente aux enfers’ and the yelling of the fans. Niko’s live screaming does the trick. Yet I also want to hear and feel the mass, the cheering of the audience, the enjoy of the hoards of punk lovers. But I don’t want to cavil at minor details.

Someone can see this double album – DVD and CD – as an anthology of one of the finest French alternative/hardcore punk bands, with a tidy, smart collection of their most inspiring works. And yes, the discs really form a well crafted best of compilation. It also suits for a smart leg up for the next album ‘Dissidents’, in the pipeline for Spring 2014. This double feature ‘20 ans d’ombre & de lumière’ really gives zest to the crème de la crème songs and history of Tagada Jones. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the band is ready for another twenty years!
DVD guide

  1. ‘Le Film – 20 ans d’Ombre et de Lumière’
  2. ‘Le Zapping’
  3. Live songs: Combien de temps encore, Zéro de conduit, La traque, Cauchemar, Descente aux enfers, Cargo, W & Le feu aux poudres

Tracklist CD

  1. Les nerfs à vif 4:22
  2. Yec’hed mad 2:15
  3. Pavillon noir 3:27
  4. W 3:18
  5. Descente aux enfers 3:40
  6. Zéro de conduite 2:57
  7. Combien de temps encore 3:02
  8. Manipulé 3:59
  9. Cargo 3:06
  10. SOS 3:12
  11. Un kulte 4:13
  12. Les connards 2:33
  13. Contre courant 3:11
  14. Ecowar 3:42
  15. Le feu aux poudres 3:56
  16. La traque 4:57

+ bonus songs

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Kali Yuga – Wrath Of Durga

358760Their previous album (2011) was quite decent, and the good news is that the band haven’t gotten worse over time. My only major complaint was the drummer, who, in my experience then, was like a machine without a spark of creativity. The funny bit is that he got replaced in 2012; so I was expecting a change for the better on this album. I don’t know why it still sounds like a programmed MIDI line; but it’s always something like this: the same goddamn snare pattern and cymbal for the entire riff, and a small roll in the final measure. It’s probably an instruction from the other band members.
Anyway, that was perhaps an unorthodox start due to that earlier review. To comment on the remainder of “Wrath of Druga” – I suspect the band to have continued in the same vein, although I haven’t pulled out their “Slaves to the subliminal” to compare. What I’m hearing is the metalcorish approach in melody and harmony, mixed with some genuine Swedish lines. During “Oblivion” I even had the impression of hearing Amon Amarth. The guitar parts are rather traditional, and then the beginning riff of “The Black Wall” suddenly steps in from an completely different angle. That kind of twists (with a Dissection feel!) really heighten the replay value – but they’re in the minority. The vocals are floating somewhere inbetween both genres. Although not quite booming enough to really convey a death metal feeling, they’re absolutely fitting the music.
Again, a solid album that is in no way special, but still sufficiently fun to listen to now and again.

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Marche Funèbre – Roots of Grief

MarcheFunebre-RootsOfGriefMy review of this band’s debut album concluded with the statement: if the band improves their riffing creativity and clean vocal steadiness, the next album should be killer. Well, they are and it is. It’s clear already from the thirteen minute mastodontic opener “These fevered days”. Vocal variety is abundant – apart from the traditional growls and cleans, we have them dual-tracked and also a sort of cleanish, tormented yelling. Simply superb. Although they’re always performing very decent, I’m still not one hundred percent convinced by the clean vocals. Sometimes they’re hitting the spot, other times I think them too flat and static. But that’s about the only thing striking me as a potential (minor) issue.
The instrumental section is usually pure and staunch – I’m getting hooked to riffs and progressions the more they get repeated; I wasn’t bored for a second – and when I almost was, the song promptly changed direction. The third and “final” song (self-titled) is divided over a few tracks. Here, the songs have some dauntless passages in terms of structure – like the break and reprise in “L’Avenue des Coeurs Passés”. The creativity (or haste?) was obviously itching here, as the songs display unrest and capriciousness in their flow. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s more difficult to get enthralled by continuously changing melodies and rhythms, regardless of how great they are.
That being said, “Roots of Grief” is a worthy sophomore album – no pretenses, loads of contents.