Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Meshuggah - "None" [1994]

Artist: Meshuggah
Title: None
Genre: Progressive Metal, Technical Thrash Metal
Country: Sweden
Year: 1994

Track List:

  1. Humiliative
  2. Sickening
  3. Ritual
  4. Gods of Rapture
  5. Aztec Two-Step (bonus)

We all know Meshuggah. They now have the dubious honor of being the seminal band for the whole djent (or "math metal") genre, but before they've gone full 000, they recorded one more or less conventional thrash metal albums and a couple of very avant-garde albums that were described as "industrial/groove thrash fusion-influenced metal" or something like that. In particular, "Chaosphere" is frequently cited as one of the heaviest albums ever recorded (which is arguable) with some of the most "mechanical" riffs ever played (which is definitely accurate).

Are they a technical band? Yes, undoubtedly. Do they play good music? Various people have different opinions, and Meshuggah's stuff (especially their late 90's recordings) definitely isn't for everyone. I personally don't listen to them too often but can acknowledge their talent (same with Voivod and some other "technical" metal bands). Actually, my best friend during my university years was a huge fan of Meshuggah, but he generally liked everything that's "technical" and "avant-garde", be it metal or prog-rock/zeuhl.

Now let's get to the point. My favourite Meshuggah release is this often overlooked 1994 EP, which is generally considered "transitional" between their early thrash style and their "true" dissonant and polymetric math metal style. Compared to the subsequent full-length "Destroy Erase Improve", it's more accessible to the average listener, and contains a very atypical song for Meshuggah: "Ritual". Honestly it's their favourite song of mine, exactly because it's quite different from the rest: it has a trippy/psychedelic feel to it, it's melodic and has some acousic parts, and Jens Kidman is actually singing instead of his usual shouting:

Monday, September 7, 2020

Zhraja - "Forgotten Songs of Dead Nation" [2002]

Artist: Zhraja
Title: Forgotten Songs of Dead Nation
Genre: Experimental Industrial/Folk Metal
Country: Belarus
Year: 2002

Track List:

  1. Vain
  2. Oriental Setting
  3. Over Him
  4. Dissappointed
  5. Misjudge
  6. Years of Soft Living
  7. Discretion
  8. State - Hysterics
  9. Now Good-Bye
  10. Never Know Mix
  11. Bloodstain

A very obscure and strange release that defies a simple genre classification and can be best described as electronic metal with black metal-style vocals and folk elements. There's not much information about the band, except it's a duo from Minsk led by a member of a late 90s black metal band called Bachus. I found out about Zhraja many years ago when I was only starting getting into underground metal (interestingly, the site where I've found some of their tracks back then is still alive and well).


Saturday, August 22, 2020

No Return - "Machinery" [2002]

Artist: No Return
Title: Machinery
Genre: Industrial Death/Thrash Metal
Country: France
Year: 2002

Track List:

  1. Machinery
  2. The Recycler
  3. Violator
  4. Synthetic
  5. Disillusion
  6. Virus
  7. Resurrection
  8. Disease
  9. Dynamo
  10. The Last Act
  11. Biomechanoid
  12. Secret Face (Death cover)
No Return are widely regarded one of the biggest French trash metal acts, started as early as in 1984 under the name Evil Power before changing it in 1989. Honestly I'm not familiar with their early works at all (and the whole 80s French metal scene is still mostly a terra incognita for me), but this album was a pretty interesting find. Its sound has been described as a mix of Kreator, (old) Fear Factory, and melodic death metal of the Swedish school, with a lot of electronic music influences. While I can't call "Machinery" a masterpiece, as it's definitely not as innovative as the early works of Fear Factory, Nocturnus, or Oxiplegatz (whom No Return also were compared to), yet it's still very decent and rather overlooked industrial death/thrash metal release with a pronounced futuristic theme.

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Conet Project - "Recordings Of Shortwave Numbers Stations" [1997]

Artist: The Conet Project
Title: Recordings Of Shortwave Numbers Stations
Genre: Radionoise, Field Recordings
Country: UK
Year: 1997

My blog definitely wouldn't be complete without a mention of this release, and while I've briefly mentioned it a few years ago, it deserves a post on its own. Many noise and experimental music artists have used the shortwave radio recordings in their works, but The Conet Poject deals with probably the most fascinating and enigmatic (pun intended) radio-related phenomenon: the number stations. For those who don't know what it is:

"Number stations are shortwave transmissions from foreign intelligence agencies to spies in the field of foreign countries. They carry encrypted messages in form of groups of numbers or letters, using either automated voice, Morse code, or a digital mode. While the encryption methods used by most number stations are unknown, some have used and others are widely believed to use one-time pad: mathematical addition of a set of random numbers (the key) to the cleartext, which can be used only once, and must be destroyed after usage...

Number stations offer a powerful advantage in our modern world: practically complete anonymity. The recipient of the message can be almost anywhere in the world, and receive instructions without fear of being traced through a phone call or internet connection. All the recipient needs is a shortwave radio and to be in the right place at the right time. The first account of a number station, as reported in the ENIGMA newsletter #12, was from an issue of the Austrian magazine Kurzwelle Panorama dating from World War I"
The Conet Project is a collection of recordings of some of the most famous number stations and noise stations broadcasts, compiled by Akin Fernandez and released on 5 (originally 4) CDs by Irdial Discs in 1997. Now they're officially available for free, in keeping with the "free music philosophy" of Irdial. While there's objectively not much to listen to if you're not a noise fan, The Conet Project has become a major souce of samples for many various films and albums, and has reached a cult status even among such people as Mike Patton and Aphex Twin. For me, it's also a reminder of the days when I was a radiophysics student and a bit of a ham radio enthusiast (although not to the point of getting a callsign). The fact that those transmissions are most likely related to espionage definitely helps this record to deliver an atmosphere of mystery too (even if those messages, for the most part, are actually much more benign and less sinister or "alien" than many shortwave radio listeners think).


Monday, August 17, 2020

Kalaschnikov - "Desert Storm" [1990]

Artist: Kalaschnikov
Title: Desert Storm
Genre: Heavy/Speed Metal
Country: Germany
Year: 1990

Track List:

  1. Czarewitch
  2. Siberian Werewolf
  3. Homage to the Holocaust
  4. Headbanger
  5. Stinking Shrine
  6. Skull Scratcher
One look at the track titles and artwork of this album is enough to figure out that it can't be taken seriously. Indeed, it's one of several fake "metalsploitation" albums released in 1990 by Ingo Nowotny on his infamous label Metal Enterprises. If you're not familiar with Nowotny's shenanigans (one of the funniest stories that ever happened on the metal scene), here's a pretty good article about the "music" he was releasing on his label:
"Metal Enterprises saw the light of day somewhere around 1985/86. It's very hard to tell exactly, since very few of their albums stated release- or recording dates. The 3 first platters were licensed (?) editions of foreign releases. Nothing strange there, since this was a cost-effective way to get a company rolling (Noise Records started out in the same manner). What's is strange is the undisputed fact that 2 of these acts, KILLER FOX and THRASH QUEEN, are generally regarded some of the worst Metal bands ever put to vinyl. Why he chose to release these particular LPs remain one of the greatest ME-mysteries...
Starting out at the absolute peak of the 80's Heavy Metal wave, Ingo & co. must have discovered that you could easily unload a 1000 or so copies of anything with the Metal-stamp on it, and if you keep production and design costs to an absolute minimum you could even get your money back and then some...
The finest/worst examples of this very special "ME-sound" are to be found on their infamous Fake Follow-ups. They contain what is probably the most retarded music ever released under the banner of Heavy Metal (which doesn't necessarily mean that the music itself is Metal.) They never bare any resemblance to the original bands or projects, but are pretty similar in-between themselves, especially the "2nd" KILLER FOX, GODZILLA, THRASH QUEEN, KALASCHNIKOV and FUCKER albums, and could very well have been recorded on the same occasion. It's really hard to describe the sound on these abominations. If you've ever experienced how comedy-shows on TV or radio sometimes can parody Metal music it will give you a faint idea idea of what we're talking about here. It's the music of someone who might have heard a few minutes of Metal at one point in their life and years later trying to recreate it with gleeful intent. Drum-machines, ultra-generic riffing, strange vocal effects and/or improvised singing. Any dumber than dumb idea you can think of and more, it's in there. Like the sudden burst into whistling in the intro of KALASCHNIKOV's "Czarewitch"..."
All in all, it reminds me of the Blatnyak market in the 90's Russia, when the producers have realized that they can sell several thousand copies of literally anything that has prison bars (or anything else "gangsta"-related) on its cover. To make the Nowotny's case even worse - he later went on "White Power"-sploitation by releasing numerous RAC albums on his label in early 90s. And if you wonder how bad his "metalsploitation" albums were, check out this gem:
However, it's rather "so bad it's good" with that pseudo-operatic female vocalist yelling something like "Trash! Trash! People look like trash!" with thick accent, while the original Thrash Queen (the very first all-female thrash... or, rather, TRASH metal band in history that released one and only album "Manslayer" in 1984) was just plain bad and uninteresting. 
I don't know much about Killer Foxx, another band whose name Nowotny has used in his "metalsploitation" attempts, except for one ridiculously looking photo of them wearing Kiss-inspired makeup (but maybe such looks weren't that ridiculous in the 80s). Anyway, they released one album before two of their founding members were killed in a car crash in 1987. Even this didn't stop Nowotny from releasing a fake album under their name (misspelled as "Killer Fox"). Like the original band, the fake Killer Fox was supposed to have a sci-fi theme, which manifested mostly in crappy "robotic" vocals:

To quote the YouTube comments: "If Beavis And Butthead started a band, this is exactly what it would sound like!". UPD: it turned out that the original band was founded by Matt Brooks aka Mick Stryker, who has lost both legs in a car accident (well, those guys had a really bad luck with cars...) He was paid welfare, which he invested in a small metal label called Landslyde Records, and he's also the person that produced the only album of the original Thrash Queen (and the only album by Killer Foxx turned out to be just as poorly recorded and uninteresting).
As for Kalaschnikov, the original band was actually quite interesting, being a duo with a black vocalist (which is quite rare on the metal scene even nowadays). Leaving aside the ridiculous lyrics, their music wasn't that bad too, and even quite catchy at times:
"Desert Storm" by the fake Kalaschnikov is also nowhere near as bad as the other fake release by Nowotny, especially if we throw away two filler ambient-like tracks. The rest of the album is repetitive yet somewhat catchy heavy metal, and when it comes to the obscure 80s metal bands, I definitely have heard worse. The album apparently has that pseudo-Russian kitsch theme that was quite popular at the time of Perestroika. NB: the tracklist almost certainly doesn't match the actual order of tracks on the album (i.e. "Homage to the Holocaust" is clearly #4)... but who cares?

Friday, August 7, 2020

N-616 - "redWave" [2020]

Artist: N-616
Title: redWave
Genre: Industrial Metal
Country: Russia
Year: 2020

Track List:

  1. Перемен (Кино Cover)
  2. Дорога паука (Агата Кристи Cover)
  3. Движение Вспять (Алиса Cover)
  4. Здорово и Вечно (Гр.Об. Cover)

...No, it's not the famous 1986 "Red Wave" compliation you probably have thought about. It's a new EP from N-616 consisting of 4 cover versions of classic Russian rock songs, performed in much heavier style than both the original versions and the early releases of N-616. Their sound seems to be considerably changed over the last 20 years, as they now are playing industrial metal with lead female vocals by Daria Mazunova. While this EP was intended mostly for those who are well familiar with the original versions of these songs, it's worth to give it a listen anyway.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

V/A - "Scaenicae Exploratio" [2007]

Title: Scaenicae Exploratio
Genre: Industrial, Dark Ambient
Country: Russia
Year: 2007

Track List:
  1. Mr. Gaus - Detach Session
  2. Ices Ov - Cantus Archaicus
  3. Spectral Blight - Thanatos Wings Sanctuary
  4. Paracore - Ego-Infected
  5. Spectral Blight - The Sarcophagi Hall
  6. Paracore - Createrased
  7. Mr. Gaus - Reborn
  8. Liholesie - Zhelten

A compilation of mostly very minimalistic dark ambient projects, released by the legendary NBK Records (Noisebunker) in 2007, during the heyday of undergound music in modern Russia (and also the time when I just started getting into such kind of music). Apart from Liholesie, the projects featured on "Scaenicae Exploratio" are quite obscure, although I personally had contacts with the people behind Paracore (aka aintno and Constantine Knerik; seems like he's still producing music under the moniker Lightning) and Spectral Blight at the time it was released. It's free (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 license), so feel free to check it out:


Friday, July 31, 2020

V/A - "Vulgar Display of Purring Presents: New York" [2018]

Title: Vulgar Display of Purring Presents: New York
Genre: Metal, Hardcore/Grindcore
Country: USA
Year: 2018

Track List:
  1. Imperial Triumphant - Breath of Innocence
  2. Pyrolatrous - Obeisance and Unrequited Adulation
  3. Artificial Brain - Spacid (Demo)
  4. Tombs - Mother of Mercy (Samhain Cover)
  5. Car Bomb - Bra_C_Ket
  6. Unearthly Trance - Lion Strength
  7. Woe - Drown Us With Greatness
  8. Anicon - Tarnish On The Emblems Of Ardor
  9. Mutilation Rites - Pierced Larynx
  10. Belus - Avarice
  11. Containor - Asshole 2
  12. Godmaker - Over (Portishead Cover)
  13. Dead Empires - Ergot
  14. Wreath of Tongues - Reprobate
  15. Moon Tooth - Belt Squeezer
  16. Blackout - Crusher Malone
  17. Meek Is Murder - A Prison, A Life Raft
  18. Husbandry - Hierba Mala Nunca Muere
  19. Beast Modulus - Everything's Shocking
  20. Skullshitter - Struggle To Die
  21. Syndromes - ...And Structures Crumble
  22. Bangladeafy - Termites

"Heavy Metal & Cats: The only two things that really matter in this cold, bleak world. We offer compilations of the heaviest, cat-loving bands in every State to benefit a local animal organization in each region. 100% of proceeds go to charity"
Well, I love cats too, so it's a great idea for a compilation. Too bad the project didn't go beyond this one NY compilation so far, but maybe in the future we'll see more. The majority of bands of this compilation are unknown to me, except for Unearthly Trance (very powerful sludge/doom metal), Artificial Brain, Woe and Imperial Triumphant.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

V/A - "Iron Sun of Russia" [2017]

Title: Iron Sun of Russia
Genre: Noise, Percussion Industrial
Country: Russia
Year: 2017

Track List:
  1. Grёzoblazhenstvie - Над пропастью в вечность
  2. Homo Sum, Humani Nihil A Me Alienum Puto - Ностальгия
  3. Weltschmerz - Солнце
  4. Maha Pralaya - Эхо тени глубин
  5. Grёzoblazhenstvie & Le Firmament Noir - Миллионы адских роз 
Another interesting discovery from my city - a classic industrial/noise compilation by several obscure projects apparently influenced by Russian Futurism of the early XX century. Of course it's harsh stuff not for everyone's ears, and unfortunately there's next to no info about the participants, but good to see the industrial scene still existing in my area.

Zagovor - "Farewell the Sun" [2020]

Artist: Zagovor
Title: Farewell the Sun
Genre: Blackened Doom Metal
Country: Russia
Year: 2020

Track List:
  1. Vetluga River
  2. Burlak
  3. First Night Of Winter
  4. Farewell The Sun
Zagovor are a new pagan black/doom metal band from my city with an EP that's apparently inspired by the history and culture of the foresty region between Vetluga and middle Volga. Almost nothing is known about the band; their name literally means "conspiracy" but the more archaic meaning is "magic spell" (and I guess that's what they meant). The EP is very short and entirely instrumental, therefore not sounding as a finished work, but it shows a lot of future potential. There aren't many metal bands inspired by the culture and history of my home region, after all...