For you uninitiated, Alestorm is what us pirate loving, rum swilling, sing-a-long hullabalooers listen to. Their newest disk is No Grave But The Sea (Napalm). To be sure, there is some nifty metal and folk music happening here. Alestorm is fun and competent, and that’s a dangerous combination! No Grave But The Sea is Alestorm’s sixth full length album and, in fact, another winner in the pirate metal album genre.Continue reading →
Intronaut are a Prog Metal band who up until this point, it’s fair to say, have pretty much gone under the radar. With The Direction Of Last Things (Century Media) the band are on studio album number five and, not to completely suggest that it is only now they’ve finally hit the sweet spot, but with this record Intronaut have collated all of the best bits and pieces from their previous work and found the kind of inspiration which might just squeeze this into a few ‘Album of the Year’ lists.
Across the album we find Intronaut mixing expansive sounds with heavy brutality via a truly masterful level of precision. As far as wider inspiration is concerned, there’s definitely a bit of Opeth and Mastodon (Crack The Skye era) rooted at the core with all the barmy eclectic, yet ridiculously perfect, sounds you might expect from the likes of King Crimson. As a scene, Prog Metal has certainly been shooting out some great bands recently, and whilst album number five probably means they’re far more seasoned than some of the younger bands pushing through, The Direction Of Last Things will likely elevate Intronaut into a far wider consciousness, forming for many a complete introduction to the band.
The album kicks off with the track ‘Fast Worms’ which does in fact sound like a neurotic tribute to the popular computer game franchise Worms, as a little 8-bit sounding intro suddenly makes way for some absolutely crushing riffs. Even if it has absolutely nothing to do with it, if you’ve ever played Worms before this track actually perfectly epitomises the eerie atmospherics which capitulates into a blaze of chaos which you would tend to experience on screen. Its sudden grasp away from the powerful riffs into an atmospheric soundscape took some getting used to, but after a few spins you’ll be fully on board.
To be honest, this approach is true of the album as a whole; it’s not overly accessible and it’s therefore likely that along the way they may lose a few people. When some of the tracks veer off into the wilderness, you do find yourself longing for the next explosion of riffs, and may even fast forward till you find them. A die hard Prog Metal fan will be critical of that sentence, but the key to albums like this is to make every element interesting and frankly Intronaut are better at doing the heavy than they are the calm – for example in a head to head the tracks ‘The Pleasant Surprise’ and ‘The Direction Of Last Things’ highlights this perfectly.
Overall then, with their fifth studio release, Intronaut have certainly made their mark once again in the prog metal world. However, where so many of these bands fall down with these huge sounding albums is the fact that they need to ensure every single minute is as engaging as the last, and it is difficult to argue that they’ve actually achieved this. It needs repeat listens – it is “one of those” which does get better with each spin, but even so whilst a large section of the Prog Metal community will probably salivate all over it, an equal sized section will probably allow it to pass them by. That said, the strong production does make it an excellent listening experience, but the fact you’re left questioning whether it’s quite so great even after several listens says a lot.
If there’s a question more thorny in the world of Metal than the purpose of live albums, it is surely, what is the point of comedy bands? The line can sometimes be hard to draw in a genre where even our revered classics border on self-parody, but there is a palpable difference between the essential silliness of the style and a band built around a joke, and there’s something hard-to-swallow – something almost “un-Metal”, as elitist as that might sound – about the latter.
The first thing you notice about ORCumentary is the guitar sound – it sounds like a collection of roughed-up, distorted midi-files strung together into riffs. Then you realise that that’s exactly what it is. Destroy The Dwarves (Orc Rock) is entirely the work of sole-member Orc Adams, who has created all of the music on his keyboards and added vocals over the top. Once you realise what’s going on it’s actually quite impressive, and sounds better than you might expect – honestly, I’ve heard Black Metal bands that sound less like real guitars – but once the shock of the unusual has worn off the music has to be judged alongside other folk-tinged Black Metal, and, even in the frequently shoddy genre, it doesn’t do well. There are some effectively catchy riffs, and the keyboard melodies are often as sharp as you’d expect from a keyboardist’s band, but its assembled crudely and often hangs together unconvincingly, riffs mashing into parpy sections with little real sense of why. The closest comparison is probably someone like Nekrogoblikon or old Finntroll, but ORCumentary are firmly the bargain-basement version.
It might be easier to overlook some of Orcumentary’s musical shortcomings if they were actually funny, but once again their efforts in this direction miss the mark. Humour is, of course, a very subjective thing, and I’m sure there’ll be people laughing out loud at Destroy The Dwarves’ squeaky dwarf voices and chants of “You! Must! Procreate!”, but they left me cold. It also doesn’t help that this is clearly played for laughs; front-loading the humour and practically screaming “this is funny!” after every song – compare with the recent album by Gloryhammer, which delivers lines of total over-the-top silliness with an utterly straight face, and succeeds in being considerably funnier as a result. Destroy The Dwarves in comparison feels more like a drunk student joke, and not a great one.
It’s difficult to seriously criticise Destroy The Dwarves, for the simple reason that all of its flaws are so clearly deliberate, and it can’t be denied that putting together an album of this nature by yourself with nothing but midi-synths IS impressive, but when held up alongside other albums it’s just not enough. Shit on purpose is still shit, and a smart trick is worth less than a regular band if it can’t deliver the goods. Perhaps worth listening to once just for the novelty, but I’d honestly be surprised if many people even finished the album, let alone came back for more.