Instrumental metal quite often gets the wrong rap for being a bit tedious and pretentious, seemingly a genre that is more about a band trying to show off how well they can play their instruments rather than create an atmosphere and a unique sound and hook. Brand new four-piece outfit, Crevassian set out to create a cathartic blend of atmosphere and groove with their debut, self-released, self-titled EP. Continue reading
New York’s instrumental prog metal masters The Astral Cadence have shared a new visualizer and album teaser. Their new album Paradigm drops on September 24th and is chock full of sweet progressive music jams and well thought-out epics. The band has made a name for itself inside the deep NYC scene for several years, having opened for the likes of Angel Vivaldi, Scale the Summit, The Fine Constant and Felix Martin. They will find a lot of fans among shred nerds, jazz, technical metal styles, and experimental music. Watch the trailer now. Continue reading
When it comes to instrumental music, bands find themselves with the added challenge of how to captivate an audience without the charisma of a vocalist or a noticeable member fronting the band. It is not surprising then to discover the caliber of bands in the post-metal/post-rock community and the high bar they are setting fledgling ensembles that attempt to bring something new to the table. Continue reading
I, Awake (self-released) is the 5th album from UK-based outfit Updownc. Their first as a three-piece, this self-released monster is easily one of the most satisfying instrumental records of 2017. Continue reading
It is nearly two decades since Apocalyptica first muscled their way into our collective consciousness as “that band that plays Metallica songs on cellos”. What at first appeared merely a neat gimmick has seen them become a fully fledged, credible and long-term band – one who have proved that metal doesn’t need to be played on electric guitar, and a tale of two cities, with big vocal singles such as ‘I’m Not Jesus’ and ‘I Don’t Care’ sat alongside stimulating dark instrumentals. It is this successful formula they look to replicate on eighth album Shadowmaker (Eleven Seven).
Having previously relied on a (frankly impressive) guest list of vocals (including Corey Taylor, Cristina Scabbia, Max Cavalera and Till Lindemann amongst many others), this time around the Finnish cellists have enlisted Franky Perez (Scars on Broadway/Slash) on 7 of the 11 full tracks, the first time they have used the same vocalist across an album.
However, consistency is an issue in the vocal led tracks; first track proper ‘Cold Blood’ is confident, competent and possessing of a strong chorus, and ‘Hole In My Soul’, a simple balladic shuffle, tugs on the cello strings of the heart; not a million miles from the more lachrymose moments of HIM, but ‘Dead Man’s Eyes’ fucking drags on and on becoming a song that fails to evoke any emotion other than annoyance, ‘House of Chains’ could be a Shinedown outtake, and ‘Sea Song’ sees interest wade out amongst the waves.
Meanwhile, the title track gets stronger and more interesting for the lengthy mid-to-late instrumental section, ripping through a Kirk Hammett style lead that segues into a Mercyful Fate darkened ambiance; ‘Reign of Fear’ intrigues and ensnares with mournful cello leads dancing languidly over riffs of varying tempos; and the aural voyage of ‘Til Death Do Us Part’, with its lengthy emotive passages dovetailing with stabs and lurches, is the album highlight.
Ultimately, Shadowmaker shows that the true essence of Apocalyptica lies in the instrumental. Unfettered by the constraints and adamantine chains of a traditional rock song structure they are, as they always have been, at their best, most dynamic and most interesting. Flitting between that and standard rock fare leaves them with a patchwork quilt of an album – the stitching may be great, but the overall aesthetic is muddled.
On a cold night late in the year, we were able to gather to catch the brief and stunning 10 year anniversary tour of Russian Circles. The Sinclair was packed with excited fans who mobbed the merch tables for custom vinyl and limited-edition shirts. No hats though… maybe next winter my beanie hat fetish will get cured. The venue was indeed full up with fans and there was a lot of excitement in the room for the evening ahead.
Opening things up was the return of Mutoid Man, headed up by Cave In’s Steven Brodsky. Brodsky is a post-rock legend in his own right, and Cave In had just recently took this very stage, opening a similar event for the Doomriders anniversary show, so Brodsky gets a heroes welcome. I realize that in New England we get to see and hear him and his projects more than most, so we are lucky. Meanwhile the band just blazed through most of their début, what sounded like one new song, and killer covers of Dio-era Black Sabbath (with a guest singer, their merch girl, amazing voice and all) and a Marvellettes song (wtf?). The band is killer and you have to marvel at how economical and brutal a drummer Ben Koller (Converge, All Pigs Must Die) is. He was insane on the kit.
Russian Circles is in a select few bands in the post-metal genre really worth spending a lot of time with. Much like the greats of Jazz or Prog rock, repeated listens of Russian Circles lets you discover new bits of songs you never realized existed, every time you hear them. Live, they are even better. They somehow stretch out and expand the depth of the each song they perform while never coloring too far outside the lines. Maybe its the 3000 guitar pedals the band has.
initially I was a little too close to of one of the PA speakers so for the first few songs, I was really focused on the players while my ear drums exploded. From the third song ‘Carpe’ on, I backed up a little in the crowd and really soaked in the sounds. It was as perfect a performance I had seen lately. Dave Turncrantz, Mike Sullivan, and Brian Cook are three players in synchronicity, with no visual cues or barely a passing glance to each other. Just three guys just letting the music flow through them. The crowd was in awe the entire time. After ‘Geneva’, it felt like the show was over for the night. However the players returned several more times to stun the crowd with renditions of ‘Mlàdek’, ‘Death Rides a Horse’ and ‘Youngblood’. Although tonight was night of looking back at their history, one can only imagine what the future holds, as the band prepares a new album for later in 2015.
Russian Circles Set List:
Death Rides a Horse
WORDS BY KEITH CHACHKES
PHOTOS BY EMMA PARSONS PHOTOGRAPHY
Memorial (Sargent House) by Russian Circles is a confident beast. It slithers low on its belly on a dark, deep, moody journey, the songs running into each other to provide an ebb and flow that doesn’t exist within the songs themselves. As with all the good music it finds that balance between disparate and opposing elements, like the lone half bar of stick click leading to thumping, flailing drums, end to end with no percussion at all. There’s a heap of skill in the composition and the execution, making this one of the better post-rock/post-metal releases so far this year.
Despite comments by bassist Brian Cook about bands that sound like copies of Explosions In The Sky, these songs aren’t a million miles away either in their slow burn and atmospheric approach, especially in tracks like ‘Cheyenne’, which relies on subtle variations and contrast with its adjacent tracks rather than dramatic crescendocore, dynamics and a procession of short and ever-changing elements. Yes the tracks are shorter, much heavier and use oils and palette knives against the brush and watercolour of EITS, but each track explores one emotion at a time as opposed to a range. Add the fact it’s recognizably Russian Circles, and you realize Memorial doesn’t stretch boundaries or redefine post-rock and post-metal
As with their two previous records, there’s a wonderful raw quality and both riffing and tremolo guitar are more likely to play second fiddle to bass and drums than you normally find with this style. It gets very intense at times. Actually strike that – some passages are even more intense than others even when light. A case in point is ‘Ethel’, which is the sunrise that breaks through the bleak, murderous night time of ‘Burial’ and provides one of the most beautiful transitions I’ve heard in post-rock and post-metal. All the while it retains that thumping, fat bass you can feel and see as well as hear, and those powerful but restrained drums, despite being a far more gentle track. Then there’s that perfect guitar only used in Ethel – some other instrumental bands could learn a trick here about avoiding effect overuse.
The transition from opener ‘Memoriam’ into ‘Deficit’ is severe, unpleasant, jarring and harsh as fuck. It will annoy a lot of listeners and that’s what I love about it – create discomfort by throwing a hurdle in nice and early that gives the listener no clue as to how this thing is going to pan out. It only makes sense if you listen to the record as a whole (as most fans will) and not to the tracks in isolation though. Once again, a quiet introduction giving way to a thunderous attack in track two is nothing new, particularly in metal and post-metal, but as with the rest of the album the execution is brilliant.
A record of this quality will have many talking about how it’s at the cutting edge of instrumental experimental rock, but it’s not, and it doesn’t matter. This really is one long, epic song that takes you through a range of emotions without losing identity and without losing your attention. It’s far from the first instrumental rock album to do this, but it is one of the best. In the end that’s what matters.