Old Wounds – From Where We Came Is Where We’ll Rest

Old Wounds - From Where We Came Is Where We'll Rest

‘From Where We Came Is Where We’ll Rest’ is the new LP from New Jersey post-hardcore band Old Wounds. After a number of EPs their latest takes from that of their earlier material and amplifies it to an alarmingly intense extreme.

On ‘From Where We Came Is Where We’ll Rest’ the band thrusts themselves into a nightmarish and brutal intrusion on hardcore music. Other than being absolutely punishing in nearly every aspect the band also presents an impressive repertoire of instrumental technicality that rivals that of other notable bands of their ilk, namely modern legends like Converge and Dillenger Escape Plan as well as newer acts like Gaza, Caust, and Code Orange Kids.

While influences are pretty obvious and Old Wounds may add  little in the way of progressing past the boundaries or furthering the development of the genre’s sound they still manage to put on one hell of an entertaining listen with this new album.

Throughout these 12 tracks the band keeps at a maddeningly fast pace, never sacrificing any of their energy and when the band does slow down it still manages to sound just as dense. On the fourth track Old Wounds sound at their most prime, cramming a ton of variation into a single track which, without warning, transitions from thrashy Converge-esque riffs and melodic guitar harmonies and into grinding discordant mayhem before breaking out into a spacey segue à la Dillinger Escape Plan. It is this that makes makes Old Wounds stand out from similar acts; the band’s ability to come through with a a solid combination of metal and hardcore that not only sounds modern but, whether intentional or not, reaches out to past generations of both respective genres which makes for a refreshing listen that I think fans of a more traditional sounds may even be able to enjoy.

The lyrics are nothing new in terms of what has already been offered by their contemporaries. Lyrical themes tend to be on the topic of disappointment, failure, and overcoming obstacles among other genre specific clichés.  This likely won’t be too much of a bother for anyone who is just casually listening considering most of the vocals are obscured with screams, shouts, or generally lost in waves of ear bleeding instrumentation but for a genre where concepts and and themes play a large roll in the music itself those who pay more attention may raise an eyebrow when on the track ‘Bitter Days’ the vocalists shouts “how can you justify when the life you live is the biggest lie” and “this is the end of everything you love”.

While the band does lack in certain areas, Old Wounds makes up in the amount of diversity they achieve. From nauseatingly fast head rushes of grinding guitars and blasting drums to a snails pace in the filthy doom-inducing track that is ‘Void’ and the absolutely filthy bass heavy track that is ‘Unspoken’ the band shows plenty of variety.

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Overall Rating: 6.7

Favorite Tracks: ‘Shallow Water’, ‘Born To Mourn’, ‘New Fortunes’

Recommended: Caust, Gaza, and Code Orange Kids, (maybe some Slayer too).

Released: 26 February 2013

Links:

Stream ‘Where We Came Is Where We’ll Rest’ via soundcloud here.

You can purchase the album here.

-Tyler Thompson

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

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