The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist – Relief (Track Review)

The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist just released a new track entitled ‘Relief’.

‘Relief’ shows the band continuing to explore their style of sludgy dirges made up of the same intense songwriting and crushing riffs and chords found on their debut EP, ‘You See All Kinds of Things When You Are the Only One Awake’. The guitar tone is once again ridiculously heavy with a lot of low end that makes for a very muddy tone which may be a negative aspect for some but I think it is a good stylistic difference that separates their sound from the hundreds of other bands they share the scene with. The vocals transition in a smooth almost unnoticed way between a sort of half baked yell and full fledged screaming; lots of emotion here. This band’s ear for composition and steady pacing between these frequent short burst of aggression and small pockets of breathing room are what really makes this song work for me. When looking back at their debut EP ‘Relief’ isn’t anything new in terms of being different from their previous material but it is a good tune nonetheless.

Recommended: Melancholic sludge influenced sounds. Circle Takes the Square

Released: 19 February 2012

Links: Listen here

-Redntoothnclaw

Qwertzuiop – Unending

Unending is the latest release from one man ambient black metal project Qwertzuiop. I became familiar with the project when I reviewed his full length, Dead Oak earlier this year.

Unending shows Qwertzuiop moving slowly away from the harsh black metal inspired dreariness and embracing more of the dark ambient attributes that were originally apparent with his first release; a natural transition given that black metal and ambient music hold firm ties with each other. With the raw louder elements of Dead Oak taking a back seat, much of the sonically extreme sections such as the distortion laden guitar are replaced with strings, textures, and generally a larger presence of atmospherics that forces the music to focus on composition resulting in an attempt to create something more organic than it’s predecessor.

Like many of these projects, the influence of black metal is not always apparent to the extent of openly wearing its inspirations on its sleeves but there are definitely pieces borrowed from the genre that are retained, although they are minor. The cold lumbering drums are still there, although oppressed and very low in the mix and some distortion makes it’s way into the songs every now and then. The orchestral arrangements are a vivid picture of the unending grey skies, heavy clouds, and dark forests that have become so associated with the imagery of black metal itself.

When compared to Dead Oak, ‘Unending’ is pretty quiet sonically, with the exception of the third track, ‘IX’, which is one of the more powerful moments on the album that features a sequence of uptempo drumming that sounds like it’s straight out of an early Burzum album. I love the intensity that builds up to the tracks conclusion; an enjoyable track that gives that does a good job of changing things up without compromising the grim impression of Qwertzuiop’s music.

As haunting as ‘Unending’ wants to be it can also be just as beautiful. On the fourth track ‘X’, the music is primarily made up of string swells that makes for a good contrasting piece bringing a little light into the dark picture that Qwertzuiop succeeds in producing. The final song continues the ambient style carried over from the previous track and utilizes field recordings of what sounds like rustling and twigs rubbing up against one another to create textures that give a bit of added depth to the song. I really enjoyed the last two tracks, they actually make me wonder what Qwertzuiop would be able to do with a longer track length. Being that these last two releases were rather short, all under 20 minutes in length I think that a larger track list or perhaps even longer songs times would open up possibilities.

Although this release sees Qwertzuiop progressing the same problems I had with Dead Oak are still present on this release. With many of the bedroom black metal projects and with these “bandcamp musicians” in general they have forced themselves into a niche where musicians mash together all of the popular attributes of different genres (i.e. shoegaze, ambient, black metal) in hopes of creating something new with the resulting output. Not only has this become formulaic but a lot of the time the result is a lackluster kitschy take on popular styles. Where as this would have been ok a few years ago with multi-genre projects like ‘Have A Nice Life’ gaining popularity in 2012 it just seems archaic and has become predictable. It isn’t a flaw that is going to make this album unlistenable by any means but I think it is a good sign that combining multiple genres together does not result in originality all of the time.

The recording quality on a few of the track could be better as well. On the first track the mixing on all of the instrumentation and textures sounds like they are at the exact volume and I know lo-fi music doesn’t have a great track record with equalization and proper recording techniques, which I would be ok with but when it gets to the point where it is detracting from the music it is time to take the initiative to tone it down and find other ways of incorporating an unrefined aesthetic into the music. I wouldn’t be this bothered by the mixing style if the music weren’t so linear; it isn’t nearly delicate or layered enough to where you would be able to revisit it and hear something new every time so I’m struggling to understand why the production is the way it is.

With this change in direction I’m intrigued to see were this project goes, the added orchestral sounds are a nice touch that add a lot to the mood but ‘Unending’ is pretty much more of the same that comes up a little short of with what it attempts to do.

Overall rating: 6.8

Favorite Track: ‘IX’

Recommended: Dark orchestral sounds with the attitude of Norwegian black metal.

Released: 13 January 2012

Links: Check out ‘Unending’ on Bandcamp

-Redntoothnclaw

The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist – You See All Kinds of Things When You Are The Only One Awake

The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist is the product of Anthony Ivosevich on drums and vocals  and Craig Smith contributing guitar and vocals. Together the duo makes a unique blend of crusty and sometimes melancholy punk. ‘You See All Kinds of Things When You Are The Only One Awake’ is the bands first EP and overall release.

Unlike their contemporaries, The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist aim for something much slower, focusing on brooding atmosphere over the fast grindcore-esque brand of hardcore that was pioneered by bands like Orchid. The tone of the guitar is thick and full bodied, at times it feels as though their music has actual density in a physical sense. One may even be so bold as to refer to the music here as ‘sludge’. A good deal of the sounds on this recording are unforgivingly heavy but You See All Kinds of Things When You Are The Only One Awake does have a fair amount of tastefully placed cleanish breaks.  A great example can be heard about half of the way through ‘We Bow Our Heads’, which begins with simple slow building chords that evolve into chugging heavy guitars and tortured screams. A clean section interrupts with a simple guitar melody and some great drumming to match before the band continues to elaborate on their dirge driven sound. Another strong example can be heard on ‘William Wilson’ which consists of spoken word-like vocals. These short but sweet let ups really allow the listener to breathe and I understand that sometimes for the sake of mood and consistency, especially with intentionally claustrophobic music such as this it may not always best to give the listener air but do not be fooled, these moments are not light hearted sing alongs; lyrically and atmospherically they are nearly as heavy as the band heard in full force, teeth showing, unrelenting and cathartic as ever.

Perhaps the most distinctive trait attributed to The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist is the cutthroat and downright brutal vocals. ‘Stay Awake’ is an intense affair that is full of some of the most biting vocals I’ve heard in a while, proving that the band’s music lives up to the name. I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys were spitting blood after recording these tracks. There are multiple layers of vocals; overlapping and interchanging, screaming over and slightly out of time with one another which creates a really nice sense of chaos without playing maniacally fast. For a band consisting of only two members they do a really great job of sounding louder than you would expect. It would be interesting to see how these guys hold up live, especially taking into account that they consist only of two members.

The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist sound mad as hell, and it is obvious that they want you to know that with every fiber of their being. Although there is only so much screaming and shouting that one can take before it becomes redundant, in their own right this release does a good job of knowing when to let up and let the listener breathe a little before sinking back into the insanely heavy music that they excel at producing.

Last.fm Page

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Overall Rating: 8.3

Favorite Track: ‘Buzzards’ ‘Stay Awake’ ‘We Bow Our Heads’

Recommended: Think Circle Takes the Square vs. Neurosis

-Redntoothnclaw

Qwertzuiop – Dead Oak

Qwertzuiop - Dead Oak

Qwertzuiop is a one man black metal band from Nyiregyhaza, Hungary. ‘Dead Oak’ is the musician’s first release.

Like many of these bedroom projects, they often provide a kitschy take on a semi-popular trend in music. With the digital age, the influx of technology such as home computers, laptops, and smart phones along with websites such as Last.fm, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp come easier ways for musicians to see that their music is heard. Free programs such as Audacity give musicians an opportunity to record and self produce their material in a cost efficiently and easier fashion. Bedroom music, whether it be folk, shoegaze, drone and ambient, or perhaps the most popular being black metal, that of which often retains a fusion of the aforementioned genres is undoubtably the result of the birth of the digital age. All of the previously mentioned styles of music are similar in one way, that being that they are all lo-fi, able to be recorded at home without expensive equipment, favoring creativity over quality studio production and musicianship. Like many other one man black metal bands, especially ones that venture into music unrelated to the genre itself, the influence of traditional black metal is almost subliminal or not immediate in the sense that it retains some small elements of the genre while focusing more on experimenting on other sounds and styles of music.

The whole of the work is generally fulfilling; there are some cool sounds and some moments scattered throughout that may leave the listener pondering how a certain sound was produced. The first track is a colorful mixture of walls of sound and black metal that makes for a listening experience that is very much on a cosmic scale in terms of how big the music sounds which is impressive given certain limitations that come with the music. The body of ‘Dead Oak’ is almost entirely instrumental with the exception that there are vocals on the second track and although used sparingly the shrill tortured scream that is emitted toward the end of the track is a fantastic tactically placed element.

As different as this album tries to be I feel that ‘Dead Oak’ is not free of its many limitations. There are times where the music feels rushed, trying to bring together as many key factors from different styles of music as possible, stripping them down and trying to assemble them into something new based on what is left. At times it does work, the first and second track being a prime example of this while much of the time you can hear the music struggling to join together all of it’s different sounds to create a concrete piece. This leaves me to wonder whether this trend in music is truly the result of a surge in musical creativity and a will to experiment or rather laziness that has been hidden behind the gimmick of low-fi production; the tragic idea that if a piece of music is masked in enough reverb, fuzz pedals, all while being recorded with an Xbox Live headset the musician assumes that it can be called lo-fi and left at that. Fortunately this is not the case with most of the music on ‘Dead Oak’.

Qwertzuiop’s ‘Dead Oak’ manages to become something that is actually enjoyable while maintaining a creative and experimental style. Like other similar projects such as Murmuure and Mamaleek. There are some truly great moments on here, some that even act as strong examples of structured noise. There is one major problem I have with ‘Dead Oak’, one that is shared with many of it’s contemporaries; that being the idea of purposefully lumping together as many styles of music as possible in order to attempt to create an entirely new style of music instead of attempting to ultimately create something unique.  This is not a trend that exclusively identifies with black metal but unfortunately applies to all styles of music. The question is, how will Qwertzuiop establish it’s sound from those of projects such as Murmuure, Morose, and Heretoir in the future?

Check out Qwertzuiop’s music.

Overall rating: 7.4

Favorite Track: ‘I’

Recommended: Traditional black metal purists may want to stay away from this but if you are looking for a different approach to the genre than this may be for you.

-Redntoothnclaw

Kilgore Trout – Split with False Flag

Kilgore Trout - Split with False Flag

It seems since I reviewed Studying’s ‘Songs About Leaving Home’ I find myself listening to and reviewing every punk band from Annandale, VA that I find out about. Virginia has undoubtedly seen an influx of punk, screamo, and emo bands lately and Kilgore Trout is yet another band from Annandale who is a part of this growing scene. This is their split with False Flag.

What separates Kilgore Trout’s sound from the many other bands from their area is the inclusion of multiple genres such as power-violence, noise, and screamo; sounds that have been seamlessly incorporated into a three song split of extreme and experimental music that is stylisitcally similar in both sound and composition to punk rock. It is as if Merzbow had decided to produce a punk record.

‘Hollow’, the first track opens with an oscillating wall of sound, a crushing and seemingly unexpected opener that left me interested to see where the band was going to take things. I didn’t have to wait long though because not shortly after the band opens up with some duel male and female vocals before tearing into the aggressive tendencies of power violence, full of unrelenting and pummeling chords. The vocals on this track are notable, often marring the lines between singing and screaming, a hollow half barked vocal. The track noisily transitions into  the next, ‘Rose Quarts’ which begins much like the previous track. The vocals are buried beneath all of the distortion and instrument feedback and when you can hear them they are much more grating, the kind of vocals that really make for an aggressive and impacting performance.

The abrasive nature of the music on this split is undoubtedly going to turn some lovers of the genre off, however, there are moments of beauty beneath all of the chaos. On ‘Visita Interiora’ there is a clean break that leads into a section featuring remnants of clean tremolo picked guitar swells that can be heard buried beneath slabs of crunchy distortion and feedback. It is subtle and almost nonexistent, ghastly even.

Kilgore’s side of the split works so well in being aggressive while remaining raw; it proves that a band does not need top notch production to create something heavy and loud which is where I feel like so many bands associated with heavy music seem to have gone wrong.  Still, I can not help but shake the fact as though the production on this release may turn some off. At times it is hard to discern some sounds from others, in other words many of the sounds get lost in the lo-fi production and muddy mess of noise. Their music is rough and unrefined, it lacks polish, which is not necessarily a negative thing as it only adds more dissonance to the atmosphere. It is raw and unforgiving, the way aggressive music should be.

Listen to their music here.

Overall Rating: 7.7

Favorite Track: ‘Visita Interiora’

Recommended: Noisy, aggressive, stripped down and loud. Merzbow meets powerviolence.

*Note: this review only applies to the Kilgore Trout side of the split*

-Redntoothnclaw