Mid-September officially sees the start of Crazy Season for album releases… But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered here at Ghost Cult with our round-up of some of this weeks and last weeks albums that may just have escaped your attention, for better or for worse…
Normally, when a press release boasts that no samples were used on an album, we can infer two things about the band in question: firstly that they’re trapped in a time-loop that extends no later than 1994 and secondly that they play some kind of raw, sloppy Punk/Metal that no-one would imagine for a second used samples. For the first time in the history of music, however, there is actually a point to declaring that – if you go in to Igorrr’s kitchen-sink onslaught of Metal, dance, Balkan music, 8-bit synths and whatever else solo permanent member Gautier Selle feels like chucking in, you could be forgiven for thinking that samples play a heavy role. They certainly used to, but in the decade-plus since the first Igorrr demo was released, Selle has gradually built up both his own musical ability and his circle of connections and collaborators, until every sound on Savage Sinusoid (Metal Blade) was created specifically for the album. Continue reading →
On their third album Symphony For A Hopeless God(Scarlet) Whyzdom (and for the record, that really is a terrible name) offer to the masses their unique brand of “Philharmonic Metal”. OK, points for that; that’s a new one on me and certainly piqued the interest in terms of how Philharmonic metal differs from symphonic metal. It would appear, not by much… and not for the better.
A clusterfuck of kitchen sink Symphonic Power Metal, it would appear the raison d’etre for Whyzdom is to layer as much orchestration, often seemingly random in what the orchestration is actually attempting to do, as possible to hide the generic and stock metal that exists underneath. For a band with seemingly such a grandiose vision and sound, the actual music is surprisingly meagre in the ideas department, reduced to nary a variant and many a stock staccato chug under the crazy swells chugs and stabs the like of which are often prevalent in Power Metal, hidden under lashings of keyboards.
For all their promises of a massive orchestra, in reality this is covered by the admittedly impressive keyboard skills of Marc Ruhlmann, though between him and mainman Vince Leff (guitars and orchestration) they’ve still to figure out how to write a dynamic line, instead stacking up noise upon noise to near-headache inducing levels. On top of this, we have the tuneless warbling of Marie Rouyer, who while clearly capable of hitting all the notes isn’t encouraged or allowed to shape them into any semblance of melody.
Unlike Epica’s The Quantum Enigma (Nuclear Blast), perhaps Whyzdom’s closest musical cousins, which separates out into a series of powerful, strong songs, repeated listens to Symphony For A Hopeless God reinforces that technical proficiency and a penchant for overkill in orchestration does not an enjoyable or enticing prospect, or good album make. Things are particularly tough going as this is a release that clocks in at over an hour of overbearing heavy-handedness and an insistence of trying to bombard the senses seeming purely for the sake of utilizing the Motorhead remit of “Everything Louder Than Everything Else” all at the expense of actual songwriting.
Canadian quintet Expain clearly don’t like genre confines. Their debut album, Just the Tip (Self-Released), takes all your thrash expectations and throws them out the window. Consisting of Daniel Brand (vocals), Eric Morrison & Pat Peeve (guitars), Nikko Whitworth (bass) and Ryan Idris (drums), Vancouver’s Expain bill themselves as “the perfect band for those lovers of shredding guitar solos, lightening-speed kick drums, bloodcurdling vocals and pant-pissing comedy.”
Clearly not bashful, the description isn’t far off. The band have taken elements of pretty much every extreme metal style going and put them in a blender, and the results are pretty unpredictable. There’s lots of jazzy interludes shoe-horned in, but mostly it’s just intricate high octane riffing and furious drumming. There’s too many jumps in style to really pin down Expain, but from the off it is clear that the band are technically very good.
Instrumental opener ‘Bacchus’ feed into the full throttle of ‘Aggression’s Progression’, a headlong charge of melodic shredding with Brand’s rasping screams over the top. ‘Phoenix Writhing’ and ‘Don’t Worry, The Worst Is Yet to Come’ continue the thrash/death/prog chaos with gusto. The melodic interlude of ‘The King’ and jazzier moments that intersperse seemingly at random show the band can change things up, but for the most part Expain are about wedging in as many riffs and solos as possible in as few songs as they can.
While the “everything and the kitchen sink” approach entertains to start with, it grows tiresome before long. Relentless riffs and endless song changes often merge into one, and while Brand’s range of growls and screams are impressive, it does all become grating after a while. There’s nothing wrong with the carnage of ‘Allegiance to Pain’ or the slower ‘Manatee,’ but with so many style and speed shifts in every song there’s little to offer after a few songs.
The band may not be a joke outfit but they have tried to throw in a bit of humour into what they do. It’s easy to have a childish smirk at the album title and the band don’t mind poking fun at metal tropes with some of the other song titles. ‘Eating a Beating Heart’ and ‘Headbang Your Head Off’ are good examples of this, though if the lyrics are meant to be funny the humour’s lost in translation.
With Just the Tip, Expain have shown they’ve got a sense of humour and are a bunch of really technically skilled musicians with a lot of ideas. However they’ve not shown how to write a memorable tune. Still, an impressive debut nonetheless.