Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I wasn't going to post about this because I noticed Byron Crawford did already, but fuck that, I was peeped to this last week by my friend who actually went to the high school this happened at in '03. There's so many nostalgic signifiers for me beyond the actual content that make me recall 10th grade fondly. Anyway to mark my 50th post, the Eli Porter video mixtape.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Woefully delayed by two weeks at least, and thoroughly dampened and ebbed away in my memory by weeks of time passed between the actual events and now, a motherfucking pair of live show reviews.
First up was the impeccably booked (and really, all tours at this point should be ridiculous package deals with say three great bands and some fledgling opening act) with Baroness, Genghis Tron, and The Red Chord opening up for Converge, who are pretty much my favorite band (passing my 3-album rule and not having any of the annoying quirks or traits that bothers me about most of the bands I like). My excitement was even more heightened by the fact that I'd only seen the band once before and it was in support of You Fail Me and was one of the most horrible experiences of my young life. Honestly.
It was November '05 and Christian, for my birthday, I think, or something, had gotten me tickets to see the Converge/Darkest Hour/Red Chord/Municipal Waste/Ringworm (already ridiculous line up) tour from that year. Unfortunately, like most decent hardcore shows, it wasn't stopping anywhere near the notoriously anti-fun and segmented-by-taste NYC venues and that's not where the scene is, anyway. Before metalcore officially died in mid-'06, NYC and our cadre of gullible, retarded, and often dangerous teenage scene kids and ex-goths ruled the roosts were a Gothenberg/spazz-core goldmine. So, forcing ourselves to accept the inevitable and think outside the box, we planned to go to muthufucking ASBURY PARK, NEW JERSEY to see the show at the Stone Pony.
Not that bad. Except just a day before I was supposed to head into the city and meet with my friends, I came down with a fever that persisted for two days. I felt like walking death, or really, a soggy polyester come-sock stuck behind a malfunctioning project radiator.
Oh, there were backsweats. I was a fucking marshland that weekend.
Inevitably, despite me sweating like crazy in Queens and struggling to sleep admist my inner hell, we made it to Penn Station and got on what I think was probably a NJ Transit bus to Asbury. We all slept comfortably, then got off the bus in front of this incredibly white working-class Jersey bar near what looked like a sea-front carnival, the kind of bar that doesn't sit right in the minds of two Hispanics and one vaguely-Hispanic-looking mulatto. Nice looking, but unfriendly and very preoccupied with being New Jersey-ites. From there, frustrated, we called a cab, which took about 40 minutes, and then took us two blocks forward after the cabbie was nice enough to let us know that we had been in walking distance of the Stone Pony the entire time.
To pile on further disappointment, the box of tomato & basil Wheat Thins I had been eating to make me feel better and the can of 7Up to quell my stomach since I couldn't eat much but was still hungry, were immediately grabbed by the cocksucker doorman and thrown to the side outside the club, without even asking whether I wanted to take a second and finish my snacks.
Now, I already hated New Jersey from my days of skipping school to go to Newark to see my ex-girlfriend senior year of high school, but this solidified the huge ball of fucking fail that is the "garden state". I would suggest napalming everything that isn't Teaneck or south Jersey.
Pissed but weak, we just made our way in, to find out that Ringworm weren't playing, and that we missed Municipal Waste and the Red Chord.
And, to Christian's chagrin and my delight, Darkest Hour only played about 4 songs, and Converge came on soon afterwards. "Sweet!", I thought smellingly.
The band were great and managed to defy the rigid confines of what's expected in hardcore and maintain that edgy, heavy and esoteric feel that makes people gravitate toward the band in the first place. However, Jacob Bannon proceeded to be a primadonna the entire set and, already tired of the redundant anti-art blue-collar Tony Robbins/Young Jeezy lyrical trappings of all hardcore (Summed up best by the retardedly cute hook of Throwdown's "Forever", "For myself!/For MY friends!/For My Fam-a-leee/FOREVER!!!"), I didn't want to hear some dude bouncing around the stage with every hardcore kid move I had grown to fucking despise quickly in my experience with the scene and metalcore and NYxHC tough-guys, lest over-explaining and proselytizing after every song. In fact, that night and for weeks afterwards, I would proceed to be baffled by the disconnect between Jacob Bannon's artfag tendencies and his behavior at this show. We also took pleasure in praising the band and ridiculing Jacob for his Baptist-ness that night.
Pissed, cold (about 12 degrees I think, that night) and hungry, we waited an hour afterwards for our bus back home. That never stopped. It went right by us, and to add more drama, we had to call a cab after we were informed that the NJ Transit stops at a certain time. And thus began a surly $120 cab ride into lower Manhattan, one which I felt terrible about because this had all been a present for me to go seem MY favorite band and we all had to suffer universally in the experience. Although I think we learned a lot that night. Like to never go to Jersey for anything except Six Flags, ever.
The night ended with horror survivor-bonding and snacking at a Canal street 7-11, but I think that was the night we realized we weren't just girls anymore. We were little women.
Luckily, the Converge show this year was nothing like that. When No Heroes came out, there was supposed to be a Knitting Factory gig in support, but Jacob had a family tragedy that would later be revealed as the death of his father, so it was canceled, as well as the Napalm Death gig that I had wanted to see to get out of the way (Much like Celtic Frost, Obituary and Slayer, past-their-live-prime albatrosses who have albums I love and just wanted to see once for the experience) because recent spats of violence (i.e.: NYC teenagers are fucking assholes and metalcore ruined everything) had forced a ban on "moshing" in the Knitting Factory and, even more hilariously when the metalcore/scene-tastic "Summer Slaughter '07" package rolled through, B.B. King's. Much more unfortunate, was the Converge/Mastodon tour that hit last year that was a wet dream for me, but unfortunately I missed all but two Converge songs that night and became privy to a Mastodon that was a lot more wanky and boring that when I had seen them destroy in 2004 when Leviathan had just come out.
Now, Genghis Tron I've seen twice already (at a sort of disheartening rare Pig Destroyer NYC show last year and my own college two years ago), so that was nothing new but I found it irritating that so many of those in attendance (not as many scene kids as I'd expect, although a few 04' metalcore and '08 br00tal deathcore kids were in the building) didn't get Genghis or how awesome everything from Dead Mountain Mouth is. I guess everyone's hung up on the rockist band set-up of gits/bass/drums. Their set killed, as usual, and they were followed by Baroness, who I have avoided like the plague for not being that great on record. But weirdly enough, they're fucking amazing live.
Only problem is, they're one of those sludge-y pseudo-metal rock bands that busts out Les Pauls and could clearly jam out on "Melissa" if you asked them nicely, but don't really have good songs. They have interesting ideas, major key guitars in pushing harmony, crackling the air and a masterful use of everything an electric guitar has to offer. It was a good lesson in dynamics and musicianship in an era where most bands, even my friend's bands, over-rely on new equipment and tons of stompboxes and sort of come off as too high-maintenance and disengaging live. No joke, all Baroness needs is decent songs to add to their complete mastery of every electric guitar trick and gimmick and nuance and they could be the most awesome thing in American rock right now. Which wouldn't be hard, because their competition would be Hinder.
The Red Chord I have seen maybe 5 or 6 hundred times before, so there wasn't anything new, except I noticeably tuned out when they played the songs from Prey For Eyes, which was a crappy album and seems to have, in terms of metalcore popularity and the scene rat race, stalled their ascent to leader position and now they're getting eclipsed by shit like Whitechapel and Suicide Silence. Ugh.
I was in the neat theater seat boxes for the first three bands, and then after pissing and copping a bunch of condoms and glow-in-the-dark lube from the now ubiquitous "Safe Sex" table at these kind of 16+ NYC shows, moved my way to the third from front row for Converge. What followed is something which rarely happens to me at any show, except TV on the Radio, Dillinger Escape Plan, The Hives, and the first time I saw The Black Dahlia Murder live. I freaked the fuck out and actually enjoyed the show. I mean, really enjoyed. Not digging the songs and just standing around, I mean leaping headfirst into that much-discussed zone of frenzy and ecstasy that is probably rarer than most kids and hippies would like you to believe from their over-dramatic tales.
Its usually math. With TV on the Radio, Dillinger Escape Plan, The Black Dahlia Murder and the Hives, the band played great, but more importantly, I knew every line, every lick, every stop and start, from their albums and really loved the album they had either just put out or were touring on. A weird misnomer is the one time I saw AFI live two years ago when Dillinger was opening and the combination proved too convenient considering I was obsessed with AFI in 2003 and had never gotten to see them play before. I was really disappointed and irritated with Decemberunderground and had pretty much already moved on to other bands, but during their set, I sang my little 2003-faggoth heart out. And Tv On the Radio, when I saw them for the first time for free in Prospect Park in '06, just happened to be amazing live, have flawless albums a fucking full brass band onstage and a sense of lightness and fun to the show.
But I snapped during Converge. I became That guy. Not like when Christian and I went to see Unearth, Terror and Bleeding Through with the specific purpose of acting like hardcore kids for the one and only time before we turned 20 via two-stepping and etc, but I was screaming the entire night. Every lyric that I had actually remembered, considering I never read the lyric books for any album I bought after 2004, came out in this raspy, Fear Before The March of Flames-y snarl. Its hard to enter that zone of "I'm going to freak out and look and sound like an idiot and not give a shit" when you're not an extrovert, but put me at a Converge show in a room full of fellow Converge Cult-ists and I will do shit like nearly break my neck to "Concubine/Fault and Fracture" and "Lonewolves", start a circle pit during "Hellbound" (and regret not doing one during "No Heroes"), offer to boost the crowd-surfers throughout, and nearly lose my voice during "First Light/Last Light". And also doing a Cedric Bixler impersonation during the Latin-y break during "Last Light"
I wish there was video of me being that guy and screaming "THIS IS...FOR ALL THE HEARTS!!! STILL!!!?!?!?! BEATING!!! BEATING!!! BEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATIIIIIIIIING!!!!".
Everything's more intense when you stack the cards like that. I own three albums and illegally own a bunch of assorted songs from their other albums that are great, find nothing about the band as annoying as I do with Queens of the Stone Age or Mos Def or anything else I like, plus there's actually a good visual aesthetic to the band and their visual art. And conveniently, Jacob Bannon was a complete showman, wasn't preaching the gospel of -core from the Hot Topic pulpit, was actually funny, and took time to greet everyone afterwards and give a sincere, puppy-eyed "Thank you" and hold court. I, wanting give consolation on his father's death or say something cool, awkwardly shouted "Your awesome!" then left. Fandom is weird.
So I left the show, after having an awkward conversation with Colin from Behold...The Arctopus about when they played Purchase, picking up free condoms and a great t-shirt, walking around awkwardly a lot and just feeling awkward socially in that environment, saying hi to a Purchase alumni in the audience (and failing to say hi to some other Purchase kids I saw there, who are apparently legion at my school judging by the merch and word-of-mouth about the show the next few days), I copped some drank from Walgreens in my sweat riddled white-T (Vitamin Water, because I fall for advertising and "replenishing nutrients" sounds really plausible when you feel like a damp ragdoll) and hopped on the train to Grand Central, then ran into this interesting 24-year-old scene alumni in an Every Time I Die shirt that I had seen in the show earlier and recognized my freshly purchased Converge '08 Tour tee. We talked shop and shit for a bit and I brought up Zao since I was feeling nostalgic and am disappointed with how unfair it is that metalcore as a whole genre from the late 90's to now became so maligned that no one is properly documenting, as evidenced by the pathetic metalcore Wikipedia article. I got schooled pretty thoroughly, since I'm at heart a metalhead and love punk but hate the people who are into punk and hardcore and spent the last three years ignoring more metalcore than I had actually listened to, which usually leads to this guy John or Christian dropping names I hadn't even seen blurbed in magazines, lest heard of.
I called a friend at the White Plains stop to pick me up, and he promptly arrived maybe 10 minutes later and we proceeded to, maybe half a mile from the school, run over and kill a possum. Then nearly kill another possum 30 feet from the school parking lot. There's a lot to be said about the bonding that rendering a North American marsupial will do for two grown boys.
And that was it. An amazing night that eventually, with the combination of the windchill, my wet t-shirt, and my raw throat, would give me walking pneumonia for a week and a half, hence the tardiness of this post.
Hopefully Maryland Deathfest and Rock The Bells can match it.
Top Live Experiences:
1. TV On The Radio @ Prospect Park Bandshell Summer '06
2. Converge Spring '08 @ Blender Theater
3. The Roots and Lupe Fiasco @ Nokia '07
4. The Black Dahlia Murder Fall '05 @ The Knitting Factory
5. The Hives Fall '07 @ Irving Plaza
6. Dillinger Escape Plan/AFI Summer '06 @ Roseland Ballroom (or some other venue around there)
Friday, April 25, 2008
We here at Fuck I Look Like? (Myself, Christian, and our adopted genderqueer poodle "Claudius Zionist") sometimes make mistakes. Or shitty posts. Or a little from each column there. So in an effort to summarily clean house now that the quality of posts has risen from 6 to 7.5, here's a series of corrections and edits. And owning up to overall shittyness.
Municipal Waste Is Gonna Fuck You Up
This is probably the post where I realized what I shouldn't and wouldn't be doing on this blog, which is a jumbled, over-long mess of a diatribe spanning more than one subject at a time. The least I could've done is separate the post, but instead I let it rock like my old Livejournal/Deadjournal entries. Shame, since there was four or five decent posts crumbled together in there.
Pussy Done Dried Up Like Fast Money
Still like what I wrote, two years later, but really had no place on the blog or context.
FREE AT LAST
Too reactionary and lazy, and rendered moot and kind of immature by Twee Funds Terrorism. Also, 2007 wasn't a shitty year for music at all, so that rant reads "asshole" to me.
I Need a Personal Jesus (I'm In Depeche Mode)
In retrospect, American Gangster is a bit crappier than my initial review suggested. Still, decent record.
Best Albums of 2007
There were some glaring omissions and corrections here, after enough time passed, so here's a revision:
-The Hives should've been at number 24, above In Rainbows, but behind 8 Diagrams.
-Aesop Rock's None Shall Pass was slept on by me, but should be up at 17 above American Gangster but behind Residente o Visitante. Or even higher, pending repeated listening from my over-inundated ass.
-Pop Levi's record should've been just above Necro. Since, you know, Necro sucks but there were 8 really great beats on there.
And these are the posts that keep me up at night during ether frolics. In my commitment to not pussing out, I'll never delete them, but I do feel they demand some distancing, Obama-Wright style.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
No. Just...no, son.
Much like I did to De La Soul (how I went 20 years without hearing De La Soul Is Dead is beyond me), I slept on KRS-ONE up until '06, when my friend Jordan let me cop the first three BDP albums from his iTunes as well as KRS' best solo album, Return of the Boom Bap. Despite my childhood seeing this dude in Sprite commercials fighting monsters inside of Voltron with Fat Joe and etc, there wasn't much of any of his catalog EVER played on TV so my awareness of the guy and his importance came strictly from countdown shows and lists, akin to Joey's Listory. So, I went through this weird period as a college sophomore where I had just copped a Dell out of necessity and had started downloading shit off the nice chap who was broadcasting his wireless to my whole block, apparently. This started the overload of music that I still suffer from now, where I have 12 gigs of shit I have yet to even start digesting, including stuff from a year or two ago that I may not even be interested in, i.e., anything Mike Patton did outside of Faith No More.
During this time, I pretty much copped a ridiculous amount of hip-hop, most of which would turn out to be great to classic records that I now own, like Ironman and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, 6 Feet Deep, Mecca and the Soul Brother and all that kind of "Source's 100 Best Rap Albums" shit. No, really, I straight downloaded half that list.
So after either having an inspirational moment or seeing MTV's "Top 25 MC's" for the 50th time on the MTV2 programming trash-heap, I finally decided to check out KRS past the one time I heard "Step Into A World" on Hot 97 in high school on their afternoon old school block. Usually listening to pre-90's rap albums is a chore for me, just because the concept of an "album" wasn't that solidified and with the exception of stuff like Licensed To Ill and Run-D.M.C., a bunch of canonical 80's classics are either full of filler or just aren't interesting enough musically to be elevated past the shitload of 90's classics that would be produced under their influence. Even The Great Adventures of Slick Rick has like two shitty, grating songs. So it took a bit of getting used to the non-single tracks on Criminal Minded, although like most 80's records, it became clear where my favorite hooks and phrases emanated from. It was really minimalist and full of empty space, something that would get lost for a while when the post-Prince Paul/Bomb Squad generation began making these beautiful, but suffocatingly full albums.
Listening to the records, I was blown away that the "old dude" that had started beef with Nelly for no reason when I was in 10th grade was pretty ill, up until after Return of the Boom Bap. Then, as the criticism usually goes, his "teacha" shtick became overbearing and worn-out, his proselytizing about hip-hop become more and more insane, in a Prodigy/Canibus sort of "I'm delusional but still think I'm dropping knowledge and not slogans without nuanced and uncorroborated paranoid theories". Plus, as evidenced by his preference of Curtis over Graduation, dude developed tin ear, and as rap went through the awkward Jay-Z to 50 Cent transition and the change in production style went through constant flux as well, he put out leaden dull record after leaden dull record. Despite this latter-day redundancy, he's still infinitely better than Pac.
Dude once said something like "If I'm in the supermarket and someone comes up to me like, 'Yo son, let's spit sumtin'...pfft. Bread, milk goes down!"
I love that. In that respect, that shit is hip-hop, even with the stodgy, conservative definition of hip-hop and cliched grumblings by people who think Talib Kweli and Common should be the talking points for everything "positive" or "tr00" (The same people unfamiliar with the fact that Wu and Biggie said lots of uplifting shit, but these people are usual morons anyway so they don't bother digging deep into anything they talk about), that attitude is still around and its beautiful. At the end of the day, hip-hop at its most basic is rapping over a beat. At its core, its rhythm incarnate. So a dude who doesn't sell records anymore willing to battle in Pathmark while getting some soymilk and whatever Isrealite/5 Percenter diet KRS eats, that's touching. Its also this aspect that make even the most cynical people give him chances. The guy made 4 classic records, and fell off a cliff and landed on LL Cool J, but when he does shit like announce he's making an album with Marley Marl, his 80's nemesis in the storied tapestry that is early rap history, people like me actually go, "Hm...alright. I'll check it out, might be great". And when it only has 5 good songs, you go "well, its still better than his last 16 albums".
Even Adventures In Emceein', the album he just put out with decent beats and constant guest appearances that only serve aggrandize his "greatness" (and a weird-ass spoken word piece by MC Lyte) and that practically no one except my friend Jordan and I knew about or listened to, had its moments of vindication for The Teacha.
And then, slightly before the release of said album, the motherfucker announces he's going to try and do the "Stop The Violence" thing again. Instinctively I go I think that shit is an alright idea if he does this properly. Like...put quality control on the verses and get HOT beats. Not some marginal underground sub-BCC boom-bap shit he's been dick-riding since he was a Krishna, but some Kanye/Polow Da Don/Three 6 Mafia/9th Wonder/Madlib shit. Things that are, if not great, good enough to buoy what will no doubt be an awful, awful failure, because, on the real, no one cares about KRS except musicologists, historians, teachers and other rappers over 30. And the former three are motivated by objective cultural studies more than actual listening habits or reverence. To get the Danity Jane/Soulja Boy heads to give a shit about your convoluted, inevitably badly presented message, you might want to get Just Blaze out of retirement and recycle those '02 Roc beats that he was always decent at. Shit, get Fizzy from M.O.P. while you're at it.
But, no. As to be expected, the guy fails. Epicly.
KRS-One - Self Construction
Its somehow worse and shoddier than I expected. Disjointed, bland, dated, meaningless, everything the Blastmasta has come to represent after 1995. I still desperately want to see the guy live and regret missing THREE opportunities last year to do so, but its this sort of thing that makes you shake your head. He's like Tito, the retarded Colombian pug I grew to love in spite of its utter stupidity while on vacation last winter, heartwarmingly inept.
And now its clear that Nas has taken the KRS-One career path. Shit, at this point, Nas IS KRS-One, judging by his inability to put out more than one good album but surprise you with a few good tracks per album. Oh, and his rabble-rousing.
Nas- Be A Nigger Too
Nahright and NYOIL Summing It Up
Listen, once you attain a level of greatness, you have two choices once you falter. Keep sucking, or fall back. Either become Masta Ace or Ghostface or hang it up, B. KRS should have stopped making albums a long time ago, but it seems he's content to let his taint of failure effect all of the younger cats who cosign him (Nas, Fat Joe, etc.) and praise him even past his creative twilight.
But at least he doesn't have a mic tatooed on his arm.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
In honor of the ridiculousness of opinion, the internet, and myopic grandstanding and scene-loyalty in the face of idiocy and complete intellectual failure as a human being, the most ridiculous album review I've ever read, courtesy of some doom metal troll on metal-archives.com
Also, its metalcore month. For me,at least. Fuck what you heard, Zao spits metal lungies.
A conspiracy against us - 0%
Written by Noktorn on April 11th, 2007
I've started and erased this review several times while trying to wrap my words around the statements I'm trying to make. It's not a difficult one to think about, but it is a bit harder to communicate in the written form. It is one of the utmost abstract, but understanding it would be utter simplicity. So, let me try once again to illustrate my feelings towards this album.
Heavy metal, as well all well know by now, is a commodity. Not necessarily a commodity to its dedicated practitioners, but most certainly a commodity to those would profit on the genre's aesthetic, regardless of the artistic implications of the music within. We see the signs all around: your local Hot Topic selling vintage Black Sabbath shirts for exorbitant prices, the denizens of a local high school animatedly discussing Dragonforce (pay no attention to the dyed-black hair swept artfully and mysteriously over one eye), or even the presence of Trivium opening for Iron Maiden (imagine such a thing just fifteen years ago; it would be met by rioting in the streets!). Obviously, despite how sacred people such as us might find the genre, it is just another style, another look for all those who are not versed in its mysticism.
To the outside listener, one cannot usually distinguish between subgenres of metal at first glance. Most of the time, it all sounds like differently pitched varieties of cacophonous noise that does nothing more than thrash about without rhyme or reason. Of course, such a view is understandable and typical and even excusable early on, when one is being slowly but surely weaned off of a steady diet of homogenous mainstream sound. But it is in this spirit of noise that the metal aesthetic has been cultivated, both within the (admittedly rather shaky as of late) walls of our community and without: metal often portrays itself as an esoteric musical porcupine while those who generate cash off such an image keep upping the relative bar of extremity.
But in the third way, the noise has become the very image of those scenesters who have suddenly picked up the 'true metal' flag as their own. Few of those kids who just began listening to back Maiden and Priest LPs could tell you much about the nature of the music, the history, the struggles, the combats and triumphs between genres; this much is common knowledge. All these misguided youths think is fast, heavy, loud, and most importantly, with a thin sheen of individuality mixing oxymoronically yet without perceived struggle with trendiness. To such people, there is no inherent difference between Manilla Road or Morbid Angel or Trivium: just that some are more appealing than others, but they are of course all metal.
It is in this spirit that a strange idea of 'traditional' metal has been created: the various mixing and merging of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and a handful of others, creating some strange perception of what 'traditional metal' is. A bizarre, artless melting pot of heavy, speed, thrash, stoner, doom, NWOBHM, and whatever else is at hand, served up with a helping of short hair and accessible melodies. But of course it must maintain the irony of the music, the fact that no 'cultured' kids would really listen to such music in a genuine fashion. Yes, you can wear your Killswitch Engage shirt, perhaps even buy an album (though more likely download it) or go to a show; but one must never identify fully with such music, lest they be swept into some godforsaken maelstrom of cultureless middle class that both sees Iron Maiden as spiritually fulfilling, but can't afford plasma screen televisions either! Oh, the humanity!
But what would be better than a band that could at once rejoice in and humiliate metal, comforting those who love the image but hate the community, and perhaps even sweep a few 'true metalheads' into the fold, like so many platypi in an Australian zoo. "Ah, yes, here we have a beautiful example of a mid-80's thrasher! Look at the gorgeous plumage of his denim vest and sour attitude!" Yes, a band was needed that would take the perverted image of 'traditional' metal and bend it to the will of those who wanted to destroy metal, remove all the fear and doubt and pure ferocity of the genre, and make it something safe to do on weekends. Perhaps they could even have short hair, and be cultivated from cultured rock bands, but always profess their allegiance to that which is metal.
If one hasn't gathered it yet, this band is The Sword. Ignore your Triviums, your Slipknots, your Linkin Parks and neo-Metallicas, THIS is the sort of thing that is genuinely killing metal. This is a parody of all that metal has stood for, and it pours out of every note that vaguely heralds some hobbled combination of genres that has no basis in anything that truly exists in metal. Despite attempting (and generally failing) to mimic the styles and feelings of 'old-school' heavy metal, one can so clearly hear the lack of sincerity in the music which makes this album such an odious listening experience. This is no tribute to tradition: this is a complete sham and mockery of all that we love in this music.
The music could be approximated as some breed of traditional doom metal. Sabbathisms and other such references abound, but never reach anywhere near the quality of such a band. There's a (very) crude approximation of 'stoner' riffing throughout, that while not overtly unpleasant, is obviously lacking in both style and form. They only sound 'stoner' in the most superficial sense: they have none of the drugged-out drone of 'Sweet Leaf' or, to be more modern, 'Dragonaut', resulting in riffs that sound like they WANT to be good, but somehow get lost along the way. Much like the riffs as well, the vocal performance is a very poor attempt to summon the spirit of Ozzy, but while his voice brought to mind a modern-day shaman, the strains of J.D. Cronise are a melodramatic parody of themselves. You can hear him nearly panting with self-indulgence when he croons 'Behold! The bastard blade!', as if his grasp of alliteration somehow elevates him as an artist. I suppose this reflects the music itself: precocious when it in no way deserves to be.
This brings me to a next point of contention: the lyrics here are utterly atrocious. Now, many bands have taken it upon themselves to write lyrics based on fantasy, but never in such an incompetent way as this. These aren't cohesive Tolkienisms; it's just strings of various monsters vaguely linked together as such: 'Bane of the demon lord/Slayer of the spider-priests/Spiller of the silver blood'. Or, even better, the deranged co-opting of Norse mythology on 'Freya' into some indie-rocker's viking wet dream: 'Freya weeps upon her golden throne/Upon her golden throne/I'll wait for her alone'. Ugh. The lyrics communicate no intensity, and neither does the music; so what makes this metal? Isn't SOME level of intensity a prerequisite for this style of music? Apparently not; I guess a vague sense of being 'heavy' (which is purely due to the overly clear, bass heavy production, not songwriting) is enough to qualify it as metal, sincerity and songwriting be damned.
Other reviewers have commented on how agonizingly long the songs feel. This is no lie; each song feels incredibly drawn out with excessive repetitions of riffs that serve no purpose but to artificially inflate the running time of each track, perhaps in some inane pursuit of 'being epic'. But there is nothing epic about this music, no sweeping grandeur, no particular atmosphere, nothing at all that would make the music deserving of such a term. For a band that claims to be 'doom metal', there's a complete lack of atmosphere in music where atmosphere is one of if not the most critical quality! Yes, all the pieces are in place; clever transfers between soft and hard passages, 'propulsive' drumming (note: slamming the crash cymbal as much as possible doesn't elevate the intensity of the music), some modicum of intensity. But it's all for naught, as the critical element of legitimacy is completely lacking.
The sounds themselves aren't particularly awful. Hell, there are even some pleasing parts distributed throughout the mostly aimless waffling among trite Sabbathism and stoner rock grooves. But even these few moments of pleasure are instantly extinguished by how very repulsive the feel of this band is. The Sword is a band that lacks any and all love of the genre. Not being able to judge a book by its cover is a complete lie: if it looks like an indie rocker and sounds like one, it's sure as hell not a heavy metal band, and to describe it as such is utterly ludicrous. This is completely devoid of metal's fire and spirit, leaving it with only a cold, calculating attempt to make money and sway listeners over to 'the light side': that of the normal and mundane culture that we so despise.
No, this album isn't completely terrible on a musical level. But on a philosophical level, in the dimension of caring remotely for the genre, the community, hell, even their own music? A travesty matched by few. 'Age Of Winters' stands tall as a monolithic attempt to crush metal beneath the white hoof of 'progress' and 'civilization'. This, my friends, is the sort of music that is a plague upon metal, a conspiracy to strip it of its pride and savagery. Express your devotion to metal by denying this music as part of the community that you hold dear. This is metal only in sonic replication; NOT in all the ways that count.
Death to The Sword.