Wednesday, July 23, 2014

RuoTo: Talvenselkä

Back to reviews and straight away out of my comfort zone, this is the first record that has been sent to me specifically for the purpose of being reviewed and it represents a genre that I am mostly not familiar with.

The first thing that comes to my mind, however, when listening to this album, is "why is that? This is some good stuff!" I mean, I can hear echoes of Pekka Streng, Kuusumun Profeetta, Rättö & Lehtisalo and Kuollut Etana in this, but beyond that I'm not sure how to classify this. Indie-alternative-rock-ish, maybe? In any case, I'm loving it.

With repeated listens, I was drawn into the hypnotic production that rather sounds like the band was playing right in front of you. The vocals, that admittedly sounded a bit grating for about 4 seconds on the first listen, started to sound like the most natural thing in the world. Especially at certain points where a line is repeated many times, I can picture myself sitting by a fire in a dark forest listening to these guys playing. Also, I think it says something about the catchiness of these tunes that I was already singing along on the second listen.

Now, a big allure of the album, for me, is the lyrics, delivered clearly and written well – in Finnish. I don't know how many of you readers (if there, indeed are any readers) are Finns – I assume most of you – but if you don't understand Finnish, you might lose a great deal of the experience (then again, your mileage may vary). However, Finnish is a fun language to know.

To sum up, here's a small band I wish would get bigger. They probably will never reach mainstream success, but a modicum of indie success would certainly be in order. At least enough for them to descend from their native northern Finland among us southern folk and play live (and not bankrupt themselves doing it).

Listen to Talvenselkä on spotify: RuoTo – Talvenselkä
Or on their Bandcamp page:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cloud music

A year and then some ago I began writing a post about cloud music, and while I didn't get far, now is an opportune time to revisit the subject. Here's what I managed to write all that time ago:
"Spotify and the likes have lately been gaining massive popularity around the world. They have been toted as the future of music distribution, and while that may be true, and I don't see myself as some sort of luddite, I haven't as of yet made these services a part of my musical experience."
 Now, since I wrote this, it took me a year before I signed up for Spotify. Why? Simply put, I thought it superfluous to use in addition to all the records I was buying. I suppose I thought I have little enough time to listen to the records I already own and wouldn't need a nigh limitless source of new music to distract me. I may have been right.

At the end of 2013, I decided I'd limit the amount of records I buy to 1 per month, and this gave me the idea to sign up for Spotify, if purely for the purpose of not being completely thrown out of the loop with regards to new releases. What I didn't imagine was that I'd get so hooked on the discover feature: based on my statistics on, at the time of signing up for Spotify I had listened to just under one thousand different artists or bands; now that figure is past 1,100. I have found myself steering away from the bands I've known and towards new stuff, of which I've found a metric shitton.

Then how do I feel about this? After realising my changed behaviour, I have tried to listen to old favourites as well as finding new ones, but the fact is that my listening habits have undergone a distinct shift in focus. I still listen to vinyls, every now and then I get a vinyl kick, especially if I have company, but just the fact that it's now that much easier to look up new stuff when someone mentions it has been a kind of a minor revolution, as I rarely could be bothered to go traipsing around youtube or, *gasp*, myspace (is myspace even a thing anymore?). Then again, this whole thing is still so new to me that I might not be really accustomed to it yet.

Oh, and I still take my ipod on the road instead of using Spotify on my phone, if for no other reasons than the inevitable battery drain and patchy mobile network that gives me trouble even when just browsing.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The best of 2013 – my subjective list of 6 favourites

Another year went flying past and I found myself in possession of a bunch of new records. Looking closely, I found out a whole lot of them had come out in 2013, a lot more than I'd feel like putting on a list, so eliminations would have to be made. This proved to be quite the task, took me the better part of 3 weeks to get there, but I made it, and here's my favourite 6 albums from 2013, in no particular order, however, since I can't be arsed to take 3 more weeks to decide the exact order.

Domovoyd: Oh Sensibility
We played a gig with these guys in January, and I liked what I heard back then. Shortly afterwards, they were rising fast, with a confirmed gig at Ilosaarirock, one of the biggest rock festivals of the Finnish summer, and a deal with Svart Records, who put out this, their debut album. Upon listening to the album, I liked what I heard even better. This is a great debut effort and one of the 4 albums I had no doubt about putting on the list.

Moss: Horrible Night
Sounding like Electric Wizard's depressed little brother, Moss's latest was released bu Rise Above Records, who put out quite a few good albums last year. Of those, this was the best, in my humble opinion. Unabashedly slow and plodding, with riffs that flow through you like glaciers on acid. I can see why someone might think this is boring stuff, but to me it's the opposite: it's trance-inducing in the best way imaginable. Also, having previously only heard the Tombs of the Blind Drugged and Eternal Return EPs, I was surprised to hear clean vocals from Olly, but they work.

The Body: Christs, Redeemers
For me, as a fan of Thou and Khanate, this kind of sublime mix of ugliness and eerie beauty works wonders. I saw the video for the track "An Altar or a Grave" and nearly lost my shit then and there. Unforgiving, unrelenting, not an easy album to listen to, but tickles my fancy for the grimier things in life.

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats: Mind Control
You may remember me gushing about Uncle Acid's sophomore album, Blood Lust, some years ago. That in mind, I was a bit reserved about this one prior to hearing it. The album, however, met my expectations and surpassed them. The band kicked into doom gear and proceeded to pour honey into my ears. With an air of matter-of-fact seriousness, this is just a well thought-out whole.

Oranssi Pazuzu: Valonielu
From the first note of Oranssi Pazuzu's debut album, Muukalainen Puhuu, I've loved them, and, album by album, they've kept on one-upping themselves, evolving very naturally. Valonielu, their third effort, is no exception. Here's a hulking behemoth of aggression coupled with psychedelia to once again spirit me to another level of being.

Risto Juhani: Pimeä Saari
And to prevent you from thinking I'm some kind of a doom goblin entirely, here's something on a softer note (though not that much lighter, as this, too, is some pretty melancholy stuff). I heard like 2 songs on the radio last year that I actually liked, and one of them was from this album. As the rest of the album was on par with that one track, which I really liked, it was quite the easy decision to include this on the list.

In addition, I'd like to briefly mention some other albums that I quite liked that didn't make the list proper:
Deafheaven: Sunbather
Hebosagil: Lähtö
Cult of Luna: Vertikal
KEN mode: Entrench
Church of Misery: Thy Kingdom Scum
High Priest of Saturn: High Priest of Saturn
Ghost: Infestissumam

And on top of that, two albums that came out in 2011 and 2012 respectively, but that I only heard last year and think are worth a mention, are Mars Red Sky by Mars Red Sky ( and Sorrow and Extinction by Pallbearer (, so check 'em out.

To conclude, as I've been getting into Spotify lately, I've created playlists of these here records:
Best of 2013
Runners-up 2013 (missing Hebosagil and Church of Misery due to their unavailability)

Friday, March 22, 2013

A beautiful dystopia: best albums from 1984 to now

Ever a fan of lists, I decided to compile a list from what I think are the very best albums of every year since my birth in 1984. The further back we go, my knowledge of music decreases, so I thought I'd make the cutoff at 1984. So, if your favourite album from 1989 isn't on the list, it's very much possible I haven't heard it. Or maybe I just liked another album better. Also, I know you were expecting it, but I nevertheless apologise for writing a list of metal albums. But now, without further ado, the list:

1984 – Metallica: Ride the Lightning
Something like the fourth Metallica album I bought. Also one of the first few albums I owned. It was a tossup between this one and Powerslave by Iron Maiden, but as is often the case with Maiden albums, Powerslave contains too much filler whereas Ride the Lightning is, in my opinion, top notch material from start to finish.

1985 – Sielun Veljet: L'Amourha
Sielun Veljet are a cornerstone of Finnish rock music of the 80s, noteworthy in the sense that they didn't suck. And this album is, simply put, pure fucking awesomeness.

1986 – Metallica: Master of Puppets
Going through my collection, I found an assload of good albums from 1986. Reign in Blood, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Somewhere in Time, Orgasmatron. Master of Puppets, however, is the best.

1987 – Bathory: Under the Sign of the Black Mark
What can I say about this one? The first Bathory album I ever heard. Raw, unpolished, totally awesome. And a legion of Norwegians followed.

1988 – Saint Vitus: Mournful Cries
At this point it's already getting difficult to decide on just one album, there's so much awesome stuff out there that I'm acquainted with. But this is a stunning record and I'll crown it king of 1988.

1989 – The Offspring: The Offspring
Getting even harder to decide, argh! In this golden age of death metal, I'll go with punk rock. My indisputable favourite from The Offspring's catalogue, catchy enough and yet harsh enough to create an atmosphere unrivaled by the rest of their albums. All in all, a fine display of youth energy.

1990 – Megadeth: Rust in Peace
Megadeth's finest hour. Despite increasing difficulty in making up my mind, this is the conclusion I came to.

1991 – Carcass: Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious
About time I had some death metal on this list. Even with just death metal albums, I had a tough call between 5 albums, but I'm partial to Carcass.

1992 – Alice in Chains: Dirt
All killer, no filler. No mean feat with an album with 13 tracks (of which one isn't really a song, but you get me, right?).

1993 – My Dying Bride: Turn Loose the Swans
This got really difficult. There were like 10 albums I wanted to pick. But since I can choose just one, it's this. Liquid gold in my ears every time I listen to this, a sublime concoction of beauty and despair. One of my all time favourite albums.

1994 – Acid Bath: When the Kite String Pops
From the swamps of Louisiana, sludge arose in the early nineties (probably even as early as the late eighties), and while these guys weren't the first, to me they were the most interesting.

1995 – Saint Vitus: Die Healing
Another Vitus album on the list. It's simply proper, since this is, to me, their best effort to date. I will forever stand in awe of Scott Reagers's voice, and together with some of the best songs they've written, Vitus win 1995.

1996 – Acid Bath: Paegan Terrorism Tactics
Another Acid Bath album, I cannot help it. They only released two albums and both were like the best thing ever. Simply amazing.

1997 – Katatonia: Discouraged Ones
It took me awhile to dance my way through the rest of Katatonia's back catalogue to this one, but when I first heard it, it was love. Say what you will about Katatonia, but their style works for me.

1998 – Anathema: Alternative 4
Another incredibly hard decision. Another incredibly awesome record.

1999 – Type O Negative: World Coming Down
So dark, so heartfelt, so full of pain, so catchy. I suppose most fans of Type O like their odd sense of humor, but to me, the balance was only perfect on this album, and what a nigh-perfect album it is.

2000 – Electric Wizard: Dopethrone
There's no question here, I didn't even have to think on this one.

2001 – Crowbar: Sonic Excess in Its Purest Form
This was difficult again, so many good ones to choose from. This one prevailed, however, because it's slightly more awesome than the other awesome albums from the same year.

2002 – Agalloch: The Mantle
An even better year than 2001, tons of really, really good albums. Still, this wasn't a difficult choice, since this is the. best. album. ever.

2003 – Sleep: Dopesmoker
Originally released in 1997 as an edited version called Jerusalem,  2003 finally saw the emergence of Dopesmoker as it was supposed to be. And it was good.

2004 – Kuusumun Profeetta: Sanansaattaja oraakkeli salamurha hyökkäysvaunu
From the pen of a Finnish genius by the name of Mika Rättö (also known from Circle, Omfalos Renaissance, Eleanoora Rosenholm and others) comes this slab of I don't know exactly what. What I do know is I love it.

2005 – Kent: Du & Jag Döden
The least heavy record on the list so far. Not a single bit cheerier, however, and that is how I like my music.

2006 – Celtic Frost: Monotheist
This. Is. Metal.

2007 – Wolves in the Throne Room: Two Hunters
Another year packed with awesome stuff. This, WITTR's finest effort to date, takes the cake, however.

2008 – Thou: Peasant
Plagued by shoddy mastering, this is still one of the best albums I know.

2009 – Fall of Efrafa: Inlé
What was ultimately Fall of Efrafa's swansong is also their finest work. One of those records I feel lucky to have heard.

2010 – Christian Mistress: Agony & Opium
Short and to the point. Energetic heavy metal that gets stuck in your head.

2011 – Witch Mountain: South of Salem
Traditional doom with an uncanny knack for writing the best songs.

2012 – Witch Mountain: Cauldron of the Wild
From the top of my last year's end of the year list, as seen on the Ever Circling Wolves blog. Might've linked the list to my facebook, too. Anyway, Witch Mountain are on a roll, and while it took me some time to really get into this one, eventually I understood it and it was awesome.

2013 – My Bloody Valentine: M B V
It's a bit early to tell for this year, but so far this has been my favourite. I've got a couple of new records I haven't really had time to listen to, so only time will tell, but right now this sounds really good.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Is less really more?

The expression "less is more" is probably quite familiar to all. In this post I intend to reflect upon that expression in the context of music, specifically metal in album form.

This idea came to me today as I was taking a bus downtown to get me a copy of Anaal Nathrakh's latest effort, Vanitas. I used to be of the persuasion that more is more when I was younger, you see. I got to thinking about how I bought all the Metallica albums so far released when I was 15 – deciding which one to get next based on how many tracks it had. My justification for this was that I'd be getting more bang for the buck if I got an album with more tracks. And let's be honest here: if a Metallica album clocks over 70 minutes, it more or less sucks, though I didn't realize this until years after the fact.

Some years later as I got into heavier stuff, I decided to get something by Carcass. You know where this is going, don't you? Yes, of all their albums I chose Reek of Putrefaction with its 22 tracks. Unfamiliar with grindcore at the time it was a bit of a shock and it took years to understand that stuff, but I got all their other albums (with a lot less tracks) a bit later anyway, and they were a lot easier to stomach. This is roughly when I learned the unimportance of the number of tracks, but I will be returning to this point eventually.

Anyway, a sort of affinity for long albums persisted beyond that time until at some point I realized that the ideal length for an album is largely based on genre. For example, Nasum's Inhale/Exhale (38 tracks, 45 minutes) feels bloated, because who can listen to 45 minutes of grindcore at once? It's an arduous task if it's not live or if you don't at least change bands halfway through. Whereas (at least in my opinion) Reverend Bizarre's final album, III: So Long Suckers (7 tracks, 2 hours 10 minutes) flows through quite easily. Yes, groundbreaking notion here, amirite? Fast music is better suited for short songs whereas slow music can go on a lot longer.

And now, back to the point about long albums. You see, some bands just can't hold their horses and compile an album of a number of tracks that is both sufficiently big and sufficiently small. Take the aforementioned Metallica for example, specifically their sixth album, Load. 14 tracks and 79 minutes, sheesh (not to mention that they originally intended to release Load and Reload as a double album)! Say what you want about post-justice Metallica, but that album definitely has its moments. If only they'd shaved off something like 4 or 5 tracks and it would've been that much more palatable. And an even worse offender from the Metallica camp is the infamous St. Anger with 11 tracks and clocking in at 75 minutes. I mean, if your songs are almost 9 minutes long, you don't need so many of them. That none of the songs were any good is beside the point. While at the other end of the spectrum, the aforementioned Reek of Putrefaction by Carcass is just about the perfect length at 39 minutes, despite the 22 tracks.

Going down to the level of individual songs, as what I have said so far really only matters when you're listening to albums as a whole, context is equally important nevertheless. For example, making a fast grindcore track of 9 minutes is, as a rule, a mistake (I do not know if such a track exists, this is hyperbole), whereas Sleep did a mighty fine job of writing an hour long track with Dopesmoker. And, because I haven't ranted enough about St. Anger, let's take its title track under inspection. It's been a while since I've last heard it and I don't necessarily want to hear it again, but if I recall correctly it's got 3 different parts, the structure is something like ABCABCABC (dunno, there might've been a D somewhere as well) and the tracks clocks in at 7:21. In order to make a track this simple and this long listenable, basically all the riffs should be fucking class A kings of riffs. And they aren't, not by a long shot. Similarly, some of Napalm Death's 4+ minutes grind tracks may sound a bit overlong, though hardly to the same degree.

I'll conclude by asking you (and myself): did I write too much here? Would less have been more? I don't know, I've never been that verbose and everything I write seems to come out shorter than intended. But am I just rambling incoherently here? Or is that the point?

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Friday, November 9, 2012

And I am nothing of an indie expert but here I dreamt I could review a Decemberists album

So, it's become time to finally carry out this task I set out to do so long ago and write something about Castaways and Cutouts by The Decemberists. Released in 2002, this is their debut album and I love it.

my name is Leslie Anne Levine
my mother birthed me down a dry ravine
my mother birthed me far too soon
born at nine and dead at noon 

From the first four lines of the first track, the mood for the record is set. While not in its entirety quite this dismal, the whole album is appropriately melancholy. Which is good. I mean, who likes cheery music anyway? Not me and judging by the fact that you're reading this, not you either.

And this is where my lack of knowledge about indie folk rock or whatever this is supposed to be comes forth and sits in my way like an impenetrable wall. I've no point of reference within a similar context, so I can't really tell about this in a way that would evoke some sort of recognition or what have you. Therefore, and assuming that pretty much everyone who will read this likes metal (let's be honest, why would you read this blog if you weren't into metal?), let me ask you this: Would you like to hear something good that is not metal? Something that isn't, however, that cheery shit that's all over the radio and MTV? Do you like American folk music? Do you like a good Hammond organ? How about some Irishness? If the answer to all or even most of these is yes, The Decemberists just might be a band for you to check out.

And if you're already familiar with The Decemberists, just not this particular album, and are wondering if it's worth listening, well, that depends on whether you like their other albums. Granted, their sound has evolved over time, but I personally think they haven't released a single bad album. Not even a mediocre album, just different shades of good, and while this one's got nothing on their best effort, The Crane Wife, it's still fairly awesome.

Oh yeah, did I mention I only write about albums I like?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Open mind, closed mind

You know how there's a stereotype that heavy metal fans are closed-minded about music? And you know how, as a metal fan yourself, that stereotype is inaccurate? Yeah, me too. The more I get to know new people, especially metal fans, the more I learn they're pretty open-minded.

Still, I used to be one of those stereotypical, stuck up dunces myself, in my younger years. If it didn't have distorted guitars (and maybe even if it did) it wasn't worth listening to. Ironically enough, at the time I also listened to a lot of what I'd now say is crappy metal.

With age comes wisdom, right? Right, in that my musical taste seems to be ever developing, ever diversifying. I'm learning about new, awesome bands and artists all the time. Then again, wrong, in that on the other hand I seem to be getting ever pickier as well, and something that may have delighted me 5 years ago now bores me to death. Age also brings with it the infamous "young people and their incomprehensible music" attitude. You know how it goes.

Ultimately, however, the goodness of all music is subjective. Why, then, do I get so annoyed when people wonder how come I don't like popular artist x but not-so-popular artist y from roughly the same genre instead? I suppose I'd like to think that popularity can really only be achieved by appealing to the lowest common denominator and all that hipster jazz. Does it make me cool that I like all these obscure bands you've probably never even heard of? Maybe not. Probably not. But can I help it if they sound so good to me? I don't see why I should. Instead, I suppose I could throw around recommendations for those who are on the lookout for new musical acquaintances and listen to the recommendations of others. To try to keep an open mind.