Cobalt’s Gin is an explosive, adrenaline-filled, love letter to metal music and an instantly recognizable golden standard in musical production and the true abrasive nature of musical ability. With only two members, Cobalt quickly rushes onto the scene and makes their appearance more grand than a thousand red carpets, more influential than fifty spoken word poets, and a beautiful dedication to both, the late Ernest Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson.
Erik Wunder and Phil McSorley are the creative brains behind Cobalt, and to say creative would be an understatement. Cobalt is sporadic in a sense, maniacal in another, but gorgeous in other stages. Gin follows a loose adaptation of a structure that flexes and bends between outrageous subsections of hardcore elements, and music that features screams, constant assaults from the percussion, and guitars that sound horrific in the way that they growl and hiss like an untamed animal. The other portions of Gin are much easier to handle and while still managing to keep a discreet undertone of cult-esque chanting or atmospheric playing, Cobalt stands tall as a monument for experimentation and for creating a gruff, but polished sound with Gin. The twisting and contortioned child that springs from Cobalt is aggressive and comes off to be exactly what a war both externally, and internally would embody. It is incredible to hear a pounding of tribal sounding drums, to then shift into soft, but echoing vocals of subtle cries for help. Gin is a constant reminder of how music can shift both tone, and thought within the listener and stay consistent throughout the near hour of resonating and pronounced sound.
There is a certain ambience behind Cobalt’s personal sound, their noise derives itself from a place of pure ugliness, confusion, and the darkness that weighs like cinderblocks on both the physical and mental wellness of a person’s personal journey. With Phil McSorley shouting desperately into a void with lyrics of bitter anguish and animalistic nature; the following track “Stomach” is a prime example of both McSorley and Wunder becoming animals in their craft both lyrically and musically. McSorley and Wunder begin, “His eyes are lost, and his form is gone. His time was up and he lies in the fields, in the banks of rivers and on the edges. What I’ve seen you won’t see, urge to kill and love and hold and smash”. To read through the thought process of the musicians on Gin is almost churning to the stomach and even with the sections of instrumentals, Cobalt is still a reckoning force of nature that smashes everything held within a blast radius of their overbearing, daunting, and near-frightening sound.
Through the motions of the horrific, Cobalt pushes on through a journey of memoirs and shattered pieces of what seem like a distant enigma within themselves. Gin is a place of incredibly personal themes and of overstating abrasiveness, but also a call to subtly and to instinctive ability. With the track, “Two-Thumbed Fist” for an example; Cobalt rushes through the nine-minute journey with an unrelenting force of bass and guitar that shakes the Earth, becoming a golden standard for Cobalt. There is then the following track, “A Starved Horror” which still shouts and makes a presences known, but it does so in a slower, more melodic manner. “A Starved Horror” builds up to the abrasiveness and takes the gentle road to a screaming match within itself. The guitar work from Wunder is a shining example of simplicity against the grain of melodic nature. He works fruitfully and grasps the listener with cold hands, but the hands continue to shine a symptom of life.
Gin is a textbook example of experimental metal that takes a turn for complexity and powerful prowess. Cobalt spares no expense with leaving stones unturned, with leaving a single track without a substantial end, and an ugly solution to an ugly situation. The use of wicked guitar and deadly percussion is a must-have for Gin and the style of lyricism combined with the inner demons of both Hemingway and Thompson make for an engaging display of both fire and brimstone.
CZARFACE is the adaptation of every comic book lovers dream, from the Silver Age Supermen to the Golden Age Captains of Industry, CZARFACE is a wonderful addition into the music fanatics collection, and a beautiful idea that brings nerds everywhere together. Similar in storytelling style of MF DOOM, The Triple-headed Hydra of 7L, Esoteric, and as well as Inspectah Deck from Wu-Tang come to join forces to destroy evildoers and any that represent the forces of death. CZARFACE is truly a rare breed and their newest project, First Weapon Drawn is a narrative piece that surprisingly makes an earth-shattering statement without even rhyming anything together.
If the images of flashing booms, vibrant colors, and the constant marvelous nature of Stan Lee’s true believers jumps into your mind, then First Weapon Drawn is an emotional rollercoaster and just exactly what any Brave and the Bold fan needs in their life. From the bombastic pressure of 1960’s stylized rushes of heavy bass and blitzing guitars, to the subtle creep of the graveyard-esque synthesizers and keyboards that make up some of the backing tracks that go along with the narrative. First Weapon Drawn is more of an adventure than a record to listen to and it can be thrown on as simply background noise, but does demand to be sat down and listened to, almost like an old Dick Tracy radio broadcast. This is one of the more important aspects of CZARFACE; not only are they talented in making something that is eye-catching and reminiscing on the olden days of entertainment in their artwork, but they are ear-catching and show a real appreciation to the craft of making art that is substantial and works fantastically as an observational piece as well.
There is a real definite line of beauty behind CZARFACE’s First Weapon Drawn and a real fan appreciation to make something both interesting and exciting. It brings the edge of the seat to a new level and the constant shifting nature that CZARFACE and the instrumentals behind him keep the flow of the album moving flawlessly. With almost every single track having some sort of seguing momentum or stylistic approach, First Weapon Drawn feels and acts more like a single project than an unclassified group of tracks together. This method of creation relates well to the storytelling aspect and makes First Weapon Drawn stand out as not only a narrative piece, but also a musical piece that effortlessly combines both listener-engaging storytelling, and a wonderful arrangement musically as well.
From the earliest tracks of fuel-filled adrenaline to the final moments of sharp and clever uses of atmospheric instruments like shrilling noise and obnoxious whirling to simulate a real, true to life record of every comic book soundtrack piled into one, delicately wrapped piece of wonder. The track “What The Problem Is” sticks out for these uses of the warping bass and synthesizers that fill the room and engulf everything in a noxious gas of stylish proportions. It opens with some of the actors displaying pure shock and awe when CZARFACE enters and the instrumental goes straight from their banter, into an instant climb of minor percussion and purely atmospheric advances. There is also a seguing motion that flies into the following track, “Death of a Comrade” which features graceful, operatic singing and eventually builds up into a downright beautiful level of instrumental that combines both authentic and synthetic instruments working together to spawn a glorious array of storytelling procedures and a detailed level of instrumentals gluing together the pieces of one of the greatest virtual comic book stories ever told.
Slowdive is a band that can be described in a single word: stimulating; the English band made their debut with Just For A Day and created a wave within the independent community. The record’s floating methods of creation and accessibility did wonders for Slowdive’s sound, landing them on the number three spot on the UK Indie Chart back in 1991 when Just For A Day was first released. Now, the album feels like a hidden gem in a monumental wave of records being released both independently, and the mass market production from substantial record labels.
Slowdive created an over-produced sound for Just For A Day and was a major step in the genre of shoegaze where a repetition of sounds is played to establish the backing of each track with assorted distortion and effects from pedals. The genre reaches into the sub-roots of new wave and creates a dreamscaped feeling of wonder with each incoming track. There is so much room to become a creative space for Slowdive and they resort to using their ethereal voices, sensualized stringed instruments and gentle percussion to fill most of the record’s sound and sense of direction. With Rachel Goswell on vocals and guitar, Neil Halstead on guitar, vocals, and keyboards, Nick Chaplin on bass, Simon Scott on the percussion, and Christian Savill on guitar, Slowdive makes gradual strides into a future of atmospheric rock where each track can feel like hours in only a span of minutes.
With the opening track “Spanish Air”, Slowdive makes their first move in the chess game of Just For A Day and leads the momentous building toward a bright future of a 43-minute journey filled with hopeful instrumentals and essential vocals that capitalize on the durable foundation of Slowdive’s sound. Their sound is quite bold and dramatic, sounding in similar variety to a movie score that would include symphonic styled of playing in the way that the strings are being manipulated makes Slowdive’s precise playing stand out just that much more. It is immediately noticed in the final moments of “Spanish Air” as the voices stop, and the final grouping of instruments are playing together. It almost acts as a dramatic opening shot and first glance into the rest of a glorious journey of fleshed out beauty, cleverly disguised within incoming tracks.
The gentleness of Slowdive’s style makes their music an approachable medium and their progression of tracks are delightful. Slowdive shows true promise with Just For A Day and is something that blends together well with itself, seguing the multiple tracks perfectly with no sudden jumps or cuts in or out of any action. This style of mastering and mixing is an aid in the process of engrossing the listener into the album, making it feel more as one complete piece than just a thrown together, strung piece of art. Just For A Day is truly a beautiful piece of music history and the appealing nature of the instrumentals, the handsome progression, and the under-bearing sense of sound never engulfs, but instead tenderly surrounds and comforts.
The final moments of Just For A Day are truly special however, as Slowdive erupts in a wall of sound; then suddenly stops and disappears into the silence. It is an interesting dichotomy of emotion that makes itself apparent for only a few moments, before leaping back into the sun-setting streets, and into the spirits of man.
Belus is the twisted son created by Varg Vikernes, the mastermind behind the black-metal, heavily-anticipated, long-winded band, Berzum. Originally sprung in the music industry as a producer of his own low-budget, ambient and deathly focused sounding records that Vikernes himself went onto stating, “wanted the worst recording quality possible”. The lo-fidelity works of art slowly marches their way into the mainstream and Vikernes found a mainstream level of attention after a controversy of murder trials, convictions, arson cases, and eventual jail time. Through the continuous ups and downs with Vikernes own personal life, Berzum has remained a statement in music history as a prime example of how one singular person can accomplish something truly daunting and inspiring.
Belus is the first record coming from Vikernes after his release from a sixteen-year sentence, with the gloves finally off and a return to more than just synthesizers, Berzum can finally flourish and become a more polished, but still impactful journey through the heavily-wooded, under cover hills of what was to become Belus. The atmospheric measures taken to enclose the sound and feeling behind Belus is incredible, and Vikernes spares no expenses when using handmade introductory instruments to create these creeping instrumentals that slither between the cracks of Belus. On the opening track, “i. Lukans Renkespill (Introduksjon)” Vikernes begins with clasping pieces of what sound similar to bottles to get a subtle, but building level of atmospheric focused layering that then leads directly into “ii. Belus Doed”, the first fully-sprung track on Belus.
The shrill of the guitars, the pounding of the incoming crash cymbals, and the relentless pounding on the percussion brings a smile to the face and sudden rush to the brain. Relentlessness is a word that Berzum focuses on with Belus and the crushing nature of the instrumentals when paired with the mostly growling vocal production, makes for a match only made in hell. Even with every single instrument, every key being played, every lyric being sung by a single person, Vikernes still manages to create both similarities in the chord progression and a distance within himself. It is almost as if he works with a gravitational pull to dissect the production of Belus, creating an album that features both old and new styles of black metal music. The constant pounding is a prominent staple in black metal, but the varied style of singing and the cleaner production feels fresh to longtime Berzum fans and newcomers alike. The sense of depth within the fifty-two-minute experience is exciting, with many morose layers to dig through, while still keeping a consistent pace of rushed thrills.
Even through later tracks, both “vi. Keilohesten” and the final track, “viii. Belus’ Tilbakenkomst (Konklusjon)”, Berzum is a conquering mess of sound that illustrates a greater sense of sinking depression and animosity with each continual step. An intense sense of dread is overcome with a fascination to hear more, to learn more, and to take the leap into the greater unknown of Berzum’s Belus. The additional pieces of the puzzle that string everything together and make Belus a wonderful album are present till the very end; the droning guitar that finally seems to take a break from the near-nonstop crushing. The percussion that finally eases its steps and allows a re-catching of the breath, and the final inevitable silence that drowns out any and all noises from Vikernes, a fitting and well endowed ending to a long-awaited return of the Lord of the Basal.
To entrap the sound of pure aggression is never an easy task, it takes years of meditational anger and incredible pain to break through the rough outer shell of a human psyche and to then tap into the unending folds of despair is a task almost unachievable. Ho99o9 or more formally pronounced Horror, is a wealth of absolutely noise-driven sucker punches of bass, screams, and almost never-ending sound that can manage to evoke more movement and more emotion within the near fifty-minute record than a party full of punk rockers. The genre-blending, emotionally-driven assault is wonderful in its own right, and makes for a memorable journey that never overstays its welcome, but does destroy the house you live in, burn the car you drive, and spray paint nearly ever wall in your happy home, a dark, unwashable black.
Ho99o9 is comprised of two, unified members and often times a third who fills in for the percussion. TheOGM and Eaddy are the two primary members, while Ian Longwell often times fills in for their live performances and the trio makes for an incredible display of intriguing instrument bending and impressive switch ups throughout United States Of Horror. From the classic punk rock, more straight-forward approach with a simple two step percussive beat and one of, or even both vocalists shouting at the top of their lungs; to the grinding style of some of the later tracks that take the listener by surprises as they lure those in like a creeping snake waiting to strike on a prey. The track “Feels Like… – Interlude” is a perfect example of acting as a pure hip hop track, including a classy undertone and a large focus on the instrumental aspect. The mood is then quickly changed however as the beat fades out into “City Rejects” which takes inspiration from GG Allin and some of the godfathers of punk rock. With the sporadic vocals and the buzzing string section, Ho99o9 makes bold moves in creating a mutant of a record with the enjoyable factor being pushed to the forefront, ignoring the practicalities and rules of creating a true full-length record.
Perhaps it is even later in United States Of Horror where the consistent changes are even more progressive and if “Feels Like… – Interlude”, “City Rejects”, “Hydrolics”, and “New Jersey Devil” where all played in a consecutive manner with no context, every track could seem like it was produced by entirely different artists all together. Both “Hydrolics” and “New Jersey Devil” are such polar opposites that the sudden transition will leave you speechless and questioning just exactly where Ho99o9 has been all your life. “Hydrolics” starts with a very trap influenced, wavy style of instrumental with a focus on the glamour of rattling hi-hats and crashing bass drums that act almost in a boom-bap accordance. “New Jersey Devil” is however an unexpected blast of double-bass slapping right through the past track, and leads right into a hardcore influenced wave of blitzing guitars and vocalization. One thing that can be said about Ho99o9 is that they have a serious amount of energy and really seem to take a true love in paying homage to what made hardcore such a popular genre in the first place. They can stomp heads into the ground with the punishing sense of instrumentals one second, then take the mood down several notches into a more chilled, club style of track that reminisces about the cold nights in Jersey.
It is by no means an easy job, but someone has to do it. Ho99o9 is not the lord and savior of music, but peace was never an option with Ho99o9 and they soon make for the quick break to the fire pit, destroy everything in sight, and bring a swinging mix up of fun-filled punches and questioning morals, making for one hell of a ride.
A revolution has been coming for a long while, everything has a life cycle and this extends into the foregrounds of music where even the most experimental of albums have a lifeline. A place where geniuses are forgotten about, a place where a sound can be replicated a million times and never be remembered, a place where a single changing distinction can redirect the boundaries of music; this is a place where Swedish Metal became a frontrunner of 1970’s-1980’s of the continuing sound for decades to come, with Bathory at the helm. One of the first artists to create a “Black Metal” sound of low-budget, junky, and absolutely filthy recording style, Bathory was an artist that made a continuous shakedown of an industry and revolutionized on the noise that would come from Sweden, and from the rest of the neighboring world even today.
An instant classic album is hard to create, even harder to replicate, but impossible to eliminate. Bathory’s self-titled debut record Bathory has become a staple in hardcore for being a seasoned veteran of the surviving trends. The album is timeless and shows a distinction of being something captured in the spirit of hardcore at that time, and with only two functioning musicians; it is incredible to see exactly what Bathory became. Quorthon, who is the multi-instrumentalist behind the vocals, guitars, songwriting, and atmosphere, but he also worked with Stefan Larsson who handled the percussive aspect on Bathory and while the album itself has withstood the test of time, the true fact behind Bathory was that Quorthon was only eighteen-years old when this album would be released on Black Mark Production. A truly premature mastermind of his craft; Bathory adapted a harshness behind it, making it one of the first punishing records to grace across the Northern Skies
From the beginning of church bells and thunderous crashes, to the eventual pounding of the feverous percussion swelling guitar, Bathory makes quick moves and shows a destructive prowess. Like a recreation of a Stefan Eggeler painting, Bathory uses the shadows to its advantage and summons a shroud of darkness around themselves. There are moments of sudden jumps and punches through the silence that make Bathory seem almost terrifying in instances, but this terror is then brought back into the inevitable silence and mix-ups of atmospheric tracks that overlay throughout Bathory’s debut. Even their short-lived intermissions, Bathory still seems relentless in becoming crushing and showing a distinct, instantly recognizable sound; a sound that would carry on for years after the initial release.
Black Marble could have survived in the early 80’s, among the racks of VHS, Laser Discs, and Cassette Tapes; Black Marble is a wonderful piece by piece look into the past, while keeping a progressive forward-thinking future in mind. It is most easily described by Ghostly International, a record company that houses Black Marble, “Black Marble formed in 2012 as an artistic extension of Chris Stewart’s collection of songs and ideas.” Not only does Black Marble become both a minimalistic sense of gentleness, but it also becomes a contrasting, deeply-layered adventure of dashing percussion, grinding guitars, and buzzing amplifiers that carry Stewart’s voice into what feels like another generation.
The latest project, It’s Immaterial has a lightweight, laid-back, but never careless sense of feeling behind it. From the very beginning, it is apparent that Chris Stewart has an incredible amount of technicality behind his work and shines through. From the “flurry of ideas floating around him”, to the singular style of production, Stewart breaks through the mold of lo-fi, a term that seems almost oversaturated at this point, but becomes a stronger, more adaptable breed of animal. The tracks are mostly straight-forward; they do not make sudden changes or create loops for the listener, instead Stewart uses loops of percussion, synthesizers, and guitar to create a steady wave for the listener to happily follow along. From his beginning tracks where cheerful rock music can be echoed throughout, to the later songs where the more subtle tracks where Stewart is so incredibly soft-spoken that he is almost inaudible, Black Marble is truly a force of beauty that embodies sunshine on a rainy day.
His opening track, “Interdiction” is comprised of all synthetic sounds and samples with arpeggiator chords, creating this waving motion of patterns that coexist within themselves. It is almost horrific in motions and is fantastically unparalleled when compared to the rest of It’s Immaterial. The first track and the rest of the record are polar opposites and the sound is soon abandoned to then become the standard sound that Black Marble so wonderfully produces. The following track, “Iron Lung” is rather faint and while it contains a large amount of sound, it is actually quite gentle and leaves room for the guitars and percussion to take the spotlight while the ambient bells and background noise lay the backing of the track. Stewart does an outstanding job of mixing and mastering all the sounds together to create a well-rounded exhibition of noise.
Even much later into the near forty-minute performance, Black Marble still manages to create a memorable style and way of progression within his tracks. The track, “Self Guided Tours” is one that sticks out as it uses more electronic percussion than most of the other previous tracks and each instrument feels like a major piece of one giant puzzle. From the synths to the guitar, back down to the percussion and the chimes, every segment is impactful and eye-catching. While none of the instruments over-power each other, or create a distance, they actually bring each other together and are incredibly harmonious. The true amount of beauty that follows Black Marble’s sound is awe-inspiring, there is not a single track that feels like a filler or something out of place. Even as Black Marble reaches the final moments of It’s Immaterial, Black Marble winds down and creates the perfect closer to an already near-perfect journey.
“Collene” feels like a step in the time machine for one last ride, the last side of the vinyl, and the last play on cassette Side B; a blissful ending to a joyous journey. Every fantastic album needs a closer that makes the journey want to be repeated over and over again and with “Collene”, Black Marble makes sure that no stone is left unturned in a last effort to bring the final act of lo-fi loveliness together. Stewart’s masterpiece is a few steps in, with multiple releases, but it is It’s Immaterial that truly creates a monument in stone or in the marble slab in this case, forever encasing a past look within a future idea. The wave of the 80’s may have ended, but to Stewart and Black Marble, the past looks incredibly bright.