Swan of Tuonela – Swan of Tuonela

Swan of Tuonela - Swan of Tuonela

On the Richmond, VA band’s debut self titled, Swan of Tuonela showcases a liking for contrasting dynamics and tension within their songs. Although the group isn’t shy about their post-rock leanings, a sound that has become something of a staple within the likes of the various strains of hardcore music of today Swans of Tuonela are no strangers to aggressive music. Members of the band include previous and current members of other notable acts within the area such as Caust, Halcyon, and Dial Up; bands that press for more confrontational extremes such as powerviolence and grindcore, all of which serve as obvious influences on this debut which translate quite clearly within their sound.

The band plays with building song structures that progress into explosive, bombastic bursts of noisy, sloppy screamo. What separates Swans of Tuonela from the  masses of other post-rock influence screamo bands from around the area and otherwise is their extremely intense and chaotic songwriting abilities. While this post-rock inspired formula works for Swans of Tuonela the influx of band’s using a similar formula should be a sign to change direction which seems to have been taken into consideration seeing as there are moments where the band does change pace. For example, the four minute opening track, ‘Inanimate / Tolerance’ provides a dwelling sense of tension that grows into a heavier piece where it ends and is quickly picked up by the explosive ‘Quiver’, an impersonal and nightmarish track that manages to cram a good amount of progression and diversity into the brevity of its minute and a half duration.

While there are moments of these cascading walls of reverberated guitar the band juxtaposes it with crushing low-end chords and intensely moving sections of powerviolence inspired chaos that makes for some really nice contrast and moments of spine tingling bliss. Over the course of the fifteen minutes that is this self titled, Swans of Tuonela present a great combination of moody atmospheric passages that act as brief sections of breathing room while at once maintaining the listeners attention thrusting one quickly back into the throes of tortured screams, dissonant noise ridden guitar, thick sludgy bass, and jarringly fast drumming.

For me, while I do, at times find myself completely enthralled in what the Swan’s of Tuonela offers I also find myself wishing there was something more. I can’t help but think that what I’m listening to is the sound of a band with an exceptional amount of energy, passion, and potential, a band that could do something entirely different but has, like so many other bands fighting to break through from the now static narrative that much of hardcore music has formulaically imprisoned itself within, settled for a sound that was, at one point in time different but has ultimately grown into the stale norm.

Overall Rating: 5.8

Favorite Tracks: Quiver, Chrysalis

Recommended: Caust, Halcyon, Kilgore Trout, Dial Up, and The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist

Released: 30 January 2013

Links: Stream or purchase the cassete here.

-Tyler Thompson

Kilgore Trout – The Golden Altar / The Black Hourglass

The Golden Altar / The Black Hourglass

On Kilgore Trout’s first release they debuted with the ferocious combination of screamo and raw metallic noise that was their split / collaborative EP with False Flag. At the time it seemed like a strange but intriguing coming together of sounds but in retrospect I can’t help but think that this relationship between noise and punk has been one in the works since the early days of punk music. If anything, noise music of today is, in my mind  not only the precursor to punk but also the genre’s successor in that it has lived up to and moved past everything the genre has attempted to do. After all, pioneers of the genre, bands like Orchid, Pg. 99, and Jeromes Dream weren’t strangers to implementing progressive ideas into their music, specifically that of noise music and the avant-garde. With that said, it was no surprise to me when Loma Prieta released their pummeling Deathwish release, ‘I.V.’, last year which was also an album that pushed the genre to its loudest extremes while remaining true to traditional screamo and post-hardcore. While these newer hardcore acts are collectively seeking a louder and more intense degree of sound Kilgore Trout is a band that does it in their own way.

On the band’s second release, ‘The Golden Altar / The Black Hourglass’, Kilgore Trout returns with a maddeningly noisy off-shot of screamo. While the band continues to explore their noisier tendencies they have also expanded their style to include short passages of dark and brooding, droning guitar ambience, namely on the track ‘(II) Dead of Night’, the second part of an epic three part song that closes the album, which sounds much like something you would hear on a City of Caterpillar release.

The band proves that things can escalate quickly, going from subdued, moody ambience to a torrent of aggressiveness, a blaze of drums, grinding guitars, and vocals so raw that it could fit perfectly in the catalogue of some black metal cassette distro. These last three tracks are a nice tryptic to end the album to, a series of songs that essentially sums up Kilgore Trout’s sound. The first part, ‘(I) Regression’ is a building track that breaks out into a storm of hellishness, while the second part, as previously mention acts as a haunting interlude, accentuating the group’s attention to atmosphere that finally concludes with the third act in the series, ‘(III) In/Finite’, a track of pure hate-filled powerviolence and a stellar way to end an album.

Although I enjoyed the band’s split with False Flag, I found the production to be lacking. At times, the instrumentation sounded muddy, swallowed in all of the noise. With this new album, this isn’t so much of a problem, not necessarily because the recording sounds better per se but more so because the band has refined their sound. Although refined, that isn’t to say that the band has done away with these sections of noise ridden abrasion in their entirety but that they have accommodated their playing style to incorporate these noisier sections more appropriately into their music.

In conclusion, ‘The Golden Altar / The Black Hourglass’ is an album that shows the diversity that Kilgore Trout possesses as a band, a band that is moving toward a more refined destination, one that doesn’t surrender their ear for creating absolutely punishing music but also doesn’t take many risks or move into uncomfortable territory either.

*Like inb4track on Facebook for reviews, mp3 streams, and information on new releases.*

Overall Rating: 6.2

Favorite Tracks: ‘Roads’ and ‘(III) In/Finite’

Recommended: The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist, Swan of Tuonela, and Caust

Released: 01 January 2013

Links: Like the band on Facebook

-Tyler Thompson

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

Visit their Facebook Page

Overall Rating: 8.3

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

Recommended: Think Circle Takes the Square vs. Neurosis

-Redntoothnclaw