JAGA JAZZIST – Starfire

Jaga Jazzist - StarfireThe Norwegian supernova known as JAGA JAZZIST have created yet another meisterwerk with the appropriately titled Starfire.  Pulsing with life, pulsing with creativity, the dazzling audial assault is the soundtrack to a vintage movie set in outer space.

Within Starfire‘s five songs is an impressive amount of content.  Intricate layers created by seemingly a gazillion different instruments travel through the galaxy.  JAGA JAZZIST‘s electronic and psychedelic synth influences take hold of much of the album atop their Norwegian jazz foundation.  There is a melancholic thread that runs through it all.

The title track starts things off with a sublime and quiet tone that morphs away from its jazz intro to spaced out psychedelic/prog realms.  “Starfire” creates this feeling of the vastness and futurist feelings of being in space albeit.  The cascading and panning in and out of electronics gives the sensation of comets streaking by.

Big City Music” is decidedly more electronic-based with its plethora of synth work.  The 14+ minute song is built around a massive melody that is the song’s apex at the 7:30 and 12:15 marks.  Keen ears will hear progressive house song influences tucked in there.

Despite being named after Japan’s bullet trains, “Shinkansen” is a mellow track that brings the sensation of floating in the cosmos as comets fly by.

The heart of “Oban” is the wonderfully sublime bass clarinet riff that comes in when during the song’s quiet sections.  The song sound is essentially the soundtrack to how stars are formed amongst molecular clouds.

Prungen” has jazzy bookends and crescendos in the middle with some excellent electronics going off.

A true appreciation of Starfire cannot be had without seeing the band live or watching videos of their live performances of these songs.  The number of moving parts and the intricateness of the compositions is so impressive along with the seemingly gazillion instruments the band play.  Take time to get to know Starfire and it will reward you again and again. (Ninja Tune)

JAGA JAZZIST @ Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles (6/17/15)

Norway’s JAGA JAZZIST came to town for only their second L.A. appearance (their first having been back in 2011) for a perfect 90-minute set at the brand new Teragram Ballroom.

The eight-member band nailed their set which focused on material from their freshly released new album Starfire and previous album One-Armed Bandit. It was a treat to hear them dip back into their “first” album The Stix but songs from A Living Room Hush were noticably absent (perhaps due to it being more “electronic” in nature).

Bonus points for Teragram Ballroom being tops despite having been open for less than three weeks—this being their fourth show. The venue hit top marks on all aspects from decor, service, bars, bites, and most importantly, sound.

Peep our pics from the show…

MORBID ANGEL Line-Up Gutted; Steve Tucker Returns

This past week, MORBID ANGEL announced the departures of drummer Tim Yeung, guitarist Destructhor, and today, frontman/bassist David Vincent.  On June 15th, the band announced former frontman/bassist Steve Tucker‘s return even though no official statement on David Vincent‘s status was announced.

Needless to say, this is a complete mess and further dilutes and hurts the legacy of the band.  David Vincent chose to take the high road in his official statement:

“I had good communication with Trey yesterday and we agree that there are incompatibilities with regards to us working together.

Trey and I have accomplished amazing things together over the past 30 years and I wish him the best with his future projects.  Out of respect for the legacy of these accomplishments, I encourage Morbid Angel fans to not take sides because, I am not.

“I look forward to sharing my new endeavors with all of you in the near future. Until then, stay Morbid!  ~David Vincent

MORBID ANGEL haven’t been musically relevant in a very long time.  Let’s see what the future holds.

ARCTURUS – Arcturian

Arcturus - ArcturianThe last time ARCTURUS released new music, they were not at the top of their game.  Sideshow Symphonies was simply not on par with the band’s previous releases.  Ten years later, we have Arcturian and a band that sounds creatively refreshed.  Arcturian is unequivocally better than its predecessor and brings ARCTURUS back on track with some of their best material to date.

The album is sharp, direct, and wastes no time with meandering.  The symphonic elements, the space/prog rock elements, subtle dark electronic influences, and the black metal roots meld together wonderfully.  There are song sections and entire songs that exemplify the band’s previous albums as well as new elements brought to the table.

Crashland” sounds like the stepchild of La Masquerade Infernale with its string arrangements and atmosphere.  “Angst” has the glacier-sized keyboards of the band’s early releases with a ferocity not heard since “Radical Cut” featuring Ihsahn.  “Warp” is archetypal ARCTURUS with spacey synth, solemn pianos, and non-stop pulsing energy.  “Demon” sounds like DEPECHE MODE – in a good way.  “The Journey” is new territory with its new age feel.  It starts out with electronic beat and violins before segueing with acoustic guitars and ghostly vocals sweeping in and out.  “Bane” closes out Arcturian with a strange space carnival caravan, which fits their onstage presentation.  It’s also one of the weakest songs on Arcturian.

As far as performances go, the band are at the top of their game.  Co-founding member Hellhammer is as godly as he always is.  Other co-founding member Sverd dazzles and shows why he is the most legendary synth player in the Norwegian metal scene.  Knut Magne Valle‘s first take-improvised guitar solos are perfect.  ICS Vortex may be the only one to take a hit for some of his vocal lines.  They can come off as off key here and there.  But to his credit, he does sing his ass off and sounds good for the most part.

Arcturian is not perfect but overall, it’s a strong return to form.  There is a lot to love about it.  Welcome back, ARCTURUS.  (Prophecy Productions)

MANIMALISM – Manimalism

Manimalism - ManimalismMANIMALISM‘s self titled debut is an anachronism of sorts. While the band wrote the album’s material during the span of 1993 to 1999, things did not come together until now. MANIMALISM is never cited as being part of the Norwegian black metal wave that took the world by storm due to their low-key status.  The band’s most well known member is guitarist Kim Solve of Trine + Kim Design Studio, who has designed artwork for ULVER, SOLEFALD, and THE WRETCHED END.

Using VED BUENS ENDEFLEURETY, and recent MAYHEM as reference points, MANIMALISM walk on the strange, eclectic side of Norwegian avant garde metal. The ominous ringing of clean guitars and discordant time signatures meld with heavy, palm muted riffing juxtaposed with crooning vocal stylings. There is a feeling of being dragged away to the twilight zone.

Not only are the individual performances excellent, the live recording-like production make the album a great listening experience. The drumming crashes and bashes with seemingly unexpected yet perfectly timed flurries. The guitar crunch and clean guitar tones are immaculate. For example of great bass playing, check out the awesome basslines on “The Dandified and the Devilfish.”

Ironically, opener “Demons in Tuxedos” may be the weakest song on Manimalism. The vocal lines on the chorus are a tad sour. However, Manimalism gets meatier, weirder and more compelling as the tone gets stranger and more unsettling. Fourth track, “Romance,” may be the best song with the band use the dynamic of pockets of silence to great effect. Everything comes together with its ghostly eeriness.

MANIMALISM is wholly unique and thus, fits perfectly into Norwegian avant garde metal universe.  (Adversum)

THE DEATHTRIP – Deep Drone Master

The Deathtrip - Deep Drone MasterA pure underground gem was released in late 2014 that is mandatory for all Norwegian black metal devotees.  Yup, an all-star cast brings THE DEATHTRIP to light: Host (AKA Paul Groundswell, THINE guitarist and GM of Peaceville Records), the return of Aldrahn (DODHEIMSGARD, THORNS) from a long hiatus, and THORNS mastermind Snorre Ruch as producer.

On their debut full-length, Deep Drone Master, THE DEATHTRIP carry the spirit, sound, and sense of mysterious aura of early 90’s Norwegian black metal.  The influences are apparent yet this is not some retro-rehash job.  Deep Drone Master is not only musically relevant for the present time, it’s better than most of the other extreme metal releases that have come out in recent years.  The album also serves the great purpose of being the next best thing until the next THORNS album is eventually released.

Deep Drone Master is well-rounded while also being direct and catchy.  Whether they blast through blazing melodies or hypnotize with mid-tempos, the dark, cold atmosphere is omnipresent.  Riffs are brilliantly repeated for long periods of time to create this feeling of swirling chaos (i.e. “Cosmic Verdict“).

Longtime fans will find much enjoyment in not only hearing Aldrahn‘s voice again but hearing him at the top of his game.  His distinct vocal style and delivery on Deep Drone Master are simply powerful.

It took years and years for the band to release this, their first full length, so if there’s any justice in life, THE DEATHTRIP will have their second album out soon.  Mandatory. (Svart Records)

CRYPTOPSY Launches Crowdfunding Campaign For New EP

Three years after their self-titled album, CRYPTOPSY will release a series of EPs entitled The Book of Suffering. This approach will allow the band to put out new music more often while remaining true to their standards of quality.

After being on a record label for their entire career, CRYPTOPSY decided to go independent in 2012. Supported by their fans, they distributed and sold thousands of albums across the globe and had the opportunity to tour Japan, Western and Eastern Europe, the UK, South America, Scandinavia and Canada. They are now embarking on a crowd funding campaign that will allow them to give their fans more in terms of videos and enhanced live show production.

As of May 8, 2015, CRYPTOPSY‘s crowdfunding campaign is open with exclusive t-shirts, girly tank tops, hoodies, CDs and vinyls. In addition to the more traditional merchandise, they are offering signed Flo Mounier cymbals, online lessons with each band member, guest performances and a song mix by their guitarist and sound engineer Chris Donaldson. For those who are interested in memorabilia, they are offering stage banners that have been used since 2012. CRYPTOPSY‘s $20,000 goal will fund the recording, mixing and mastering of The Book of Suffering Tome 1, as well as produce artwork, a music video and stage banners. Additional rewards such as a play-through video, a tour documentary and more music will be unlocked for all backers if they surpass their goal.

The band have stated: “We hope that every extreme metal fan will be exposed to The Book of Suffering Tome 1. We are extremely proud of the material; it is some of the most brutal, technical and fresh music we have ever created.”

MAYHEM Comments on Announcement of Lords of Chaos Movie

Former BATHORY drummer turned film and music video director, Jonas Åkerlund, is set to direct the film based on the 1998 book, Lords of Chaos, which covered MAYHEM‘s history and the infamous deaths and church burnings in Norway in the early 90’s.  The book is interesting but is by no means the be all end all of that era of the Norwegian black metal scene.

Rolling Stone spoke with MAYHEM co-founder/bassist Necrobutcher to get his reaction to the announcement:

“This book Lords of Chaos is fucking crap and that some stupid Swedes are gonna make a movie out of it is not OK…I will do everything I can to stop this film…. Tell the Swedes and the Hollywood people to go fuck themselves.”

You gotta love Necrobutcher.

ABYSMAL DAWN – Obsolescence

Abysmal Dawn - ObscolescenceArmed to the teeth with a vast array of weaponry, ABYSMAL DAWN go all out on Obsolescence. With the modus operandi of always pushing forward, the band successfully push its boundaries of musicality and intensity.

Obsolescence has the sophistication and dynamic range of latter era-DEATH balanced with sheer heaviness and brutality. With their chops, it’s too easy to take for granted the plethora of excellent riffing. The agility and precision involved is inspiring to musicians. ABYSMAL DAWN also incorporate a good blend of straight forward, simple riffing/song structures harkening back to old school/classic death metal.

Speaking of songs, they always come first here. The sheer intensity and sense of urgency evoked is something to behold. The track listing also plays a pivotal role in keeping the listening experience varied and compelling. Peaks and valleys in all facets of songwriting are so important.

Vocalist/guitarist Charles Elliot‘s vocals take prominence in each song, commanding a lead presence. It’s clear that his phenomenal performance on BEREFT‘s debut album has carried over to Obsolescence. His long, high screams hit at the most intense parts of songs. Certain vocal lines are accented by dual vocals (ala DEICDE) to nice effect.

The band’s cover of the DISSECTION classic, “Night’s Blood,” will bring a tear to any DISSECTION fan’s eye. It’s not only a flawless tribute but fitting that the first song on Storm of the Light’s Bane serves as the album closer.

As a music listener, a good rule of thumbs is to leave labels behind (i.e. “technical death metal”). Enjoy ABYSMAL DAWN‘s Obsolescence for what it is – fine music. (Relapse Records)