The Burial Choir is a mysterious new rock band out of Wisconsin. Outside of a smattering of cryptic Facebook updates and studio photographs, it’s a project cloaked in secrecy. But in an age of social media oversharing, that’s a blessing: on their debut EP, less is certainly more. Without any outside expectations to color it in one way or another, and a run time of just 3 songs spanning 19 minutes, the only legs it has to stand on are the ones the music creates for itself.
And thankfully, those merits are many. Opening track “The Devil Laughs At Us All” kicks things off in chilling fashion, with chiming church bells and ascending vocals blending together to lure you in, before exploding into a stomping stoner metal groove. It manages to walk the fine line of hammering away at its main riff without letting it overstay its welcome, inserting just enough layers to keep things fresh while also leaving room for its dark vocal melodies to carry the rest.
Elswhere, “Archibald Beechcroft” positions itself as both the centerpiece of the EP and its closing track. This track is a nearly 9 minute long journey that works its way through a chiming, siren-like intro guitar lead and later into massive, lumbering post-metal riffs akin to ISIS and Russian Circles, all with the swagger and groove of Queens of the Stone Age at their best.
If you like dark, moody music with a touch of aggression and plenty of power, then The Burial Choir is a project you need to check out immediately. It’s music out to please no one but itself, and because of that, becomes something that will please a wide range of music fans. It’s time to get buried.
The music industry is in a weird, weird place right now. In the face of streaming, piracy, and the sheer amount of music one has to compete with for attention, it’s getting harder and harder to make a living for all but the most successful and strongly backed of artists. Or is it?
That’s where Japanese metal band Cyclamen comes in. Instead of bowing to industry trends or selling themselves out, they’ve remained intensely DIY and focused on giving their fans the best experience possible. And in order to do that, they’ve recently offered a subscription package with a wealth of goodies: everything from an exclusive album’s worth of music (plus a sneak peek into its writing and recording process and a physical copy of it), a custom t-shirt, a behind-the-scenes blog, and even personalized artwork from the band’s leader, Hayato Imanishi.
But you can give your fans all the goodies in the world and it won’t mean a thing unless you have the music to back it up. No worries there – Cyclamen is and has been one of the most exciting metal bands of recent years. With a sound that blends the textures of post-rock and ambient right alongside some of the heaviest elements of djent and progressive metal, they’re a band with no shortage of great ideas. And they’ve proven that once again on this newest, exclusive album, “Creatuneau”.
Things start off heavy with the opening seconds of “Apalition”. Immediately hitting the listener with a gut punch of a riff, it then switches things up with a verse that’s much more dreamy and atmospheric, buoyed by textured guitars and airy vocals. It makes evident from the start one of this band’s key strengths: their ability to make seemingly disparate elements comfortably exist within the same song, and sound all the better for being played against each other. The next track, “Naryinn”, demonstrates that same strength but a little bit differently. Trading texture for aggression, this song jumps back and forth between percussive rapped vocals, harsh screams, abrasive riffs, and finally a cathartic ending with ease. For many bands, this would end up just sounding like a mess of random ideas, but for Cyclamen, it allows for contrast and dynamics while still remaining a cohesive and interesting song. The next track, “Watarie Lawker” is an instrumental that showcases the technical ability that anchors detours such as those in “Naryinn”. Reminiscent of Periphery and Animals as Leaders, the band blends breakneck tapping leads, angular drop-tuned riffs, and rhythmic clean sections in order to create a song that stands just as strongly as any of their vocally-driven tracks.
Cyclamen isn’t just a heavy band, either – they know when to get pretty, too. “Feurlise” proves this in spades, being centered around a gentle, hopeful, yet technically complex clean tapping lead and backed up by an ever-ascending E-bow track. It builds mood and atmosphere for the first couple of minutes, giving the listener a bit of a breather after the explosiveness of the past few tracks. But it’s not without its bite, either. In its final moments, “Feurlise” explodes into one of the heaviest moments on the album, sporting a pounding blast beat and some powerful screams to match. It’s catharsis at its finest, expertly building and releasing tension in a way only the best progressive metal can do.
“Morgan” uses some of that tension building spirit too, but in a different way. Starting off with sampled voices and tense chords that purposefully jut up against each other, the song ebbs and flows between a mysterious sounding verse riff, whispered vocal samples to add atmosphere, and finally a triumphant guitar lead that closes out all of the song’s drama. And like the rapped section on “Naryinn”, “Pharse” also displays a bit of nu-metal influence with its pairing of DJ scratches and a simple, yet pummeling main riff. It’s a strong, energetic closer to an album full of strong, energetic songs.
And perhaps the most surprising thing is how all these is packed into just 25 minutes. Cyclamen both builds up rich textures and tears them down with crushing, complex riffs, shreds vocal chords with the harshest of screams and lulls you with the most pleasant of cleans, and wears a myriad of influences on their sleeves all in just 8 songs. It’s an exciting, powerful, and concise record, and the sheer quality here also excellently justifies the exclusive subscription model. Perhaps the most incredible part of all is that this record was written and recorded in the span of about five weeks, despite the fact that the number of people that would ever hear it was inherently limited, and yet it still stands as some of the best material the band has ever released. It proves a certain loyalty to the craft and a certain devotion to the fans, and when those things are made that obvious, it’s easy to see why the band has earned so much support in kind.
The Armed have never been a band that minces words, and they have no need for shiny adornments or sparkly gimmicks. Instead, they have one motto at their core – “Destroy Everything”. And if you’ve ever heard their music, it’s incredibly fitting. Their songs get right to their point, and that point is to cause as much havoc as humanly possible using the typical rock band setup. Being based out of Detroit, Michigan, that urge to rage and destroy rings very true: steeped in the history of a once-great city that has now become desolate and derelict, The Armed have every fucking right to be angry, and angry they’ve been. This band has been hardcore music’s best kept secret, having been flying under the radar ever since their 2009 debut album These Are Lights. Since then the band has kept up a steady trickle of short, incendiary EPs, slowly growing a small but dedicated fan base, but have yet to release another full-length until last week.
Untitled comes roaring out of the gate with all of the trademarks of The Armed’s sound. Equal parts Dillinger-inspired punk chaos, sludge metal, and DIY punk aesthetic, every song on this album is designed to punch you in the face as hard as possible. And punch it does – produced by Converge legend Kurt Ballou, the band has never sounded heavier or clearer (at least when they want to) than they do on this album. Having this legendary producer behind the boards gives the band even more brunt behind their sonic assault, but it also gives them room to spread their wings as well. “Polarizer” features a Nine Inch Nails-esque breakdown that amplifies its desperate verses, and the first half of “Dead Actress” sounds akin to a Mark Lanegan solo song (at least before the latter half rips it wide open). And while not too far of a stretch for the band, “Paradise Day” sounds almost like Blink-182, at least if Tom DeLonge had taken a lethal dose of amphetamines before hitting the studio, anyway. These moments are a breath of fresh air on an album that might otherwise threaten to stagnate – a continuous wall-to-wall 41 minute assault could fatigue even the most dedicated of hardcore fans without a diversion here and there. It’s a tricky line to walk for a band that’s mostly released EPs under the ten minute mark, but The Armed pull it off with flying colors.
But really, that’s enough talking from my end. The Armed are a band that’s consistently furious, powerful, and three-dimensional, with enough awareness to let other influences shine through once in a while. And the best part of all this? If you head on over to thearmed.bandcamp.com, you can get all of their music for free, no strings attached. So you now have no excuse.
The Armed are a force of destruction, taking their brand of hardcore to the absolute limits, stretching their sound until it threatens to fall apart under a wall of visceral drums and cacophonous feedback. Right down to their motto, “Destroy Everything”, this is a band with a clear intent, and no time for any bullshit. With their new single and video, “Polarizer”, nothing has really changed. The Detroit punks seethe with the same level of vitriol they’ve had since their self-released 2009 debut, These Are Lights, and with this song are finally gearing up for the release of full-length no. 2 (after a slew of short EPs in the intervening years). There are some wonderful hints of Nine Inch Nails in the song’s “breakdown”, and some vocals approaching singing scattered about, but they only add to the band’s power to make incredibly chaotic music blood-pumping and catchy at the same time. And as always, you can get all of their music for name your price purchase on their site. Get on board with The Armed and Destroy Everything when this album drops on June 23rd.
2014 was a big year for Cloudkicker. Hot off the heels of the project’s fourth studio album, Subsume, Cloudkicker had the opportunity to become a real band and tour the country thanks to Intronaut. This was a rare tour, as the ‘band’ is actually the one-man project of Ben Sharp. Billed alongside Intronaut and Tesseract, Cloudkicker was suddenly in front of a lot more eyes and ears. So it’s not surprising that the notoriously private musician all but disappeared into the ether after the tour, as if decompressing.
And that’s what Little Histories is – the sound of a comedown after a huge event. Everything here is stripped back from its predecessor, Subsume, trading the dense layering and huge distorted cinematics of that album for a more sludgy, minimalist production. It sounds like the aftermath of that record, mostly drifting along with clean, reverb-rich guitars and occasionally stumbling into a heavier, fuzzed-out riff. But for the most part, Little Histories is more meditative and mild-mannered, pleasantly blurring the line between post-rock and post-metal.
However, with this restraint, Cloudkicker’s sense of musical adventurousness is muted. If you’ve been listening to any of his material since 2010’s Beacons, this EP probably won’t surprise you: all the hallmarks of his sound since then are on full display, nothing more, nothing less. There is a flash of experimentation with the vocoded vocals on Sky Guide (which turns out to be one of the most interesting and unique pieces in his catalog, and echoes God is an Astronaut), though otherwise those moments are few and far between. But for an artist like Ben Sharp, these little diversions are necessary, because they allow him to further explore a sound without the worry of reinvention. Sometimes it’s nice to lower the gear and wander the scenic route, and that’s exactly what Little Histories does.
After the experiment with BitTorrent’s new distribution model, Thom Yorke has now also made the move to Bandcamp. Besides uploading his newest solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, he’s also released what appears to be a b-side from that album, featuring similarly themed artwork, as well as sporting a “pay what you want” download price.
The song itself is gorgeous, and more vocally-driven than most of the tracks on the actual album. It’s a very gentle, almost upbeat sounding song, with Yorke’s falsetto sounding much more sweeter than his usual forlorn wail. It’s reminiscent of the Amnesiac b-side Worrywort in a way, especially in its use of retro-sounding synths and almost chiptune styled sound effects. Honestly, it’s my favorite song from the TMB era of his solo work now, next to Nose Grows Some. Here’s hoping there’s a few more tracks like this still on the cutting room floor.