Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kowloon Walled City/Ladder Devils/Fight Amp - Lose Lose Lose

Some time ago I got this brilliant idea about reviewing records that probably don't make it very widely out of their country of origin, and as quite many of the underground acts I've become acquainted with are from the USA, I'll offer you something from across the pond. I thought I'd start with a new release, and therefore selected the three-way split between Kowloon Walled City, Ladder Devils and Fight Amp, Lose Lose Lose.

The split is available on vinyl, with 1 song from each band on both sides. That makes up for the first 2 new tracks for Kowloon Walled City and Fight Amp since their last year's albums Gambling on the Richter Scale and Manners and Praise respectively and Ladder Devils' first ever released tracks. All the bands play a sort of similar style of punky, rocking sludge and there isn't much variation on the record, although you can clearly tell the bands apart. Nevertheless, there is massive amounts of appeal, at least for yours truly, in their crushing brand of sludge from the brisker end of the spectrum.

Kowloon Walled City opens the album with ”The Busker”, which is a continuation of the style they did on their full-length last year. Ladder Devils then ups the groove with ”Get OK” after which Fight Amp kicks up the gear with a more aggressive ”Thankless”. The second side begins with Ladder Devils' fast and groovy ”Leavers”, followed by Fight Amp's ”Old Soul” and is concluded by a slower number from Kowloon Walled City, ”The Commuter”. Despite from jumping to and fro between bands, the tracklist sounds really well-balanced. Clocking in at a bit over 25 minutes, this split album makes for a sweet, albeit short, soundtrack for a sludge party.

Oh, and best of all, it can be downloaded for free (endorsed by at least Kowloon Walled City): click here!


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Burzum - Belus

For people my age, Varg "Count Grishnakh" Vikernes, incarcerated in 1994 for the murder of Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, guitarist and leader of the band Mayhem, has probably always been "that black metal guy in jail". His release on parole in early 2009 therefore brought up the hopes of a new Burzum record for those into his older stuff. And we didn't even have to wait that long: Belus, Burzum's 7th full-length album, came out in early March 2010.

Stylistically, Belus is a continuation of the style of metal, whether you choose to call it black metal or not, displayed on Filosofem, the last Burzum album to be recorded before Vikernes's incarceration. The album is built on slowly undulating, layered guitars and opts to appeal to sense of hypnotism rather than all-out aggression, as opposed to what a lot of black metal bands are prone to do. By the middle of the album the tempo creeps up (in the songs "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning", "Sverddans" and "Keliohesten") and while Vikernes has certainly succeeded in writing fast songs before, these aren't really up to par with the slower songs. Were there no faster songs, however, the slower ones might sound duller, therefore justifying the faster ones.

Production-wise, Vikernes has gone for a cleaner sound than many of his earlier works. Or at the very least, a better balanced one. Calling this album over-produced would be a mistake, but it's not like Filosofem either, where Vikernes, for example, specifically asked for the worst microphone in the studio to record the vocals and the guitars were recorded through a stereo set (I do love the sounds on that album, nevertheless). The result is an organic sound that supports the music.

Lyrically, the album is a return to the myth of Belus, or Baldr, who was the topic of Dau­ði Baldrs, the ambient album from 1997, and is told by Vikernes to be the metal version of said album. The myth states that the death of Baldr is an omen of Ragnarök, the end of the world, in which the gods will be destroyed. Afterwards, Baldr is born again in the new world, which also concludes the album.

While I can see how this album might alienate the fans of Burzum's older material, however much they might like Filosofem, I have to place it on par with the "classical" albums. On the other hand, Belus doesn't compare with all the majesty and perfection of the 4 first tracks of Filosofem, but its lack of a 25 minute, boring-as-all-hell ambient number such as "Rundgang um die transzendetale Säule der Singularität" totally makes up for it. And while some people say Vikernes has done a shoddier job composing hypnotic, yet evolving songs, the doom enthusiast in me does not mind the occasional stagnation, because, for those prone to get carried away by hypnotic music, this album is a state of mind.