Deathspell Omega — The Synarchy of Molten Bones (A review by Unkitsch)

stranger’s note: I, like Unkitsch, love this album. I do disagree, though, with his meditations on simplicity/ virtuosity in music. I will respond as friends do: in an essay.

Unkitch’s review

I: Introduction (if you want direct impressions on the music, skip this)

When a musician attempts to write a technical piece of music, they’re always judged by what I like to think of as the soul police. “Oh sure, you play your instruments exceedingly well, and the number of layers to the composition are overwhelming, but where’s the feel?” More often than not such criticism usually stems from musical illiteracy or an unacknowledged inferiority complex, maybe even sheer laziness for people who are used to listening to inherently passive music which is catered towards those who let the act of listening terminate at the eardrums rather than letting it permeate all the way to their analytical conscious mind.

Another criticism of music that is intellectually demanding is usually the lack of tangible motive, or of lyrical content – how ‘meaningful’ is it? How poetic? What are the underlying themes, and are they more accessible than some abstract playful ideas that fail to travel far from the personal experiences of the musician? This criticism stems from the straitjacketing of music to its archaic function as a vehicle for ideas and emotions rather than an end in itself, a painting of frequencies open to interpretation with the same legitimacy as ‘modern art’ in the vein of Pollock, Picasso and Dali.

And though I begin with this standoff-ish view on people’s views on music, I must admit – if there comes along something that manages to satisfy my moderate thirst for musicality while infusing the music with emotion and lyrical content of the highest order, such an effort merits not just praise, but respect. It no longer remains a thing that is meant to be idly consumed, but should be treated as an object of study and reverence, a means of enrichment of one’s faculties, an accessory to forming new neural links. And such is this offering from Deathspell Omega – a musical collective which is no stranger to such accomplishment.

Deathspell Omega is largely anonymous – Mikko Aspa is the only well defined member on vocals, a man with several socially unacceptable yet publicly proclaimed proclivities. Hasjarl, the guitar player (and widely regarded as the creative spirit of DSO) is presumed to be one Christian Bouche, a Frenchman behind the label Norma Evangelium Diaboli (which releases DSO merch, amongst other things), while the drummer might be entirely fictional. Not much is known of Khaos, the bass player.

Anonymity in black metal is nothing new – the second wave of black metal bands, largely Norwegian, opted for pseudonymity – creating stage personas with names such as Varg, Dead, Gaahl, Infernus – it would be odd for someone named Tom to be spouting the kind of simplistic reactionary mysticism and adorning the crude, childlike corpse paint to further drive in the point that they were dangerous, they were more than musicians – Satanists out to shake the very foundation of modern Christian society. And while these antics entertained, the quality of the music and lyrical content petered out along with the animalistic drive which lead to this music, leading to a plethora of weak imitations worldwide, and this pseudonymity became subject to ridicule from peers and critics alike.

With bands like Deathspell Omega, or Blut Aus Nord, things are different. Gone is the tasteless (even if mildly entertaining) anti-Christian invective. Instead, you have a much more structured critique, tongue-in-cheek allusions, layered metaphors, inversions – all fueled by a deep set misanthropy that can get overwhelming for those not used to it. They question the basis for morals, for anthropocentric views, the necessity for ethics. In a sense they echo the attitude of their predecessors, but aided by reason and coherence rather than pure rage – though the rage is far from absent in terms of expression. The venom is there – cold and calculated, and deadlier than ever. And given such extreme views, to NOT adopt anonymity is folly – in the tradition of Barthes, it seems only fair to distance the personal identity of the artist from the art, which would make this essay merely one of many possible reflections upon the work in question. The cynic in me will always find some degree of amusement in these efforts – since it believes that the music can speak for itself without all these layers of imposed meaning or the necessity for adopting such extreme philosophical positions – but this voice is largely drowned by the sincerity with which the band has managed to convincingly convey their convictions.

II: Music

It’s been 17 years since DSO released their first demo. A lot has changed since then. To begin with, the music was largely ‘orthodox black metal’, and the lyrical themes were of a similar nature. The first major shift was in 2004, with SMRC (Si Monvmentvm Requires, Circumspice), where the band adopted a decidedly more experimental sound. They grew as musicians and composers, but the sound could still be safely placed in the ‘black metal’ container. Skip forward to 2007 Enter FAS – an album where the guitar riffs flowed from one dissonant chord grouping to another, whereas the drumming was effectively free flowing, chaotic and without restraint. This was the last album where one had definitive evidence of a human percussionist. Further down the line – 2010. Paracletus. Terrifying precision. Progressive /Math Rock filtered through a black metal lens, drumming that seemed mechanical yet joyful, an album filled with contradictions. Expertly structured songs, and for the first time discernible melodies, enough that there are piano interpretations of some of the songs, like this one:

My own attempt to transcribe some parts to the piano lead me to believe that Hasjarl might have composed Paracletus (and Drought) largely on the piano. So when the DSO bandcamp page announced “The Synarchy Of Molten Bones” out of nowhere, while I pressed “order” almost by reflex, I wondered what kind of sound I’d hear on the new release – I foolishly expected them to play it safe and make some minor changes to the Paracletus / Drought template.

Instead, what emanated was a Paracletus – FAS hybrid, combining the strengths of each release, eliminating all weaknesses and delivering another twisted development of their core sound. Starting off with some horns and a strange vocal sample , the title track opens with a mid tempo riff which leads you to (falsely) believe that this will probably be an easy listen. And then the blast beats begin. What follows is a master class in drumming, if there is indeed a real drummer behind the kit. If not, it’s a masterclass in drum programming which makes every other attempt at programming percussion feel like a bit of a joke. The patterns keep shifting and mutating, both between the kick-snare and on the cymbals, rendering even the most atrocious of transitions seamless – of which there are several. Hasjarl is not to be outdone, as the guitar playing is equally virtuosic. You can hear his fingers fly from one inhuman sounding phrase to another, with the ‘twangs’ and the wide chords indicating continuation of his hybrid picking style which has only gotten more complex over the years – the enunciation is much clearer than FAS, and the tempos are more furious than Paracletus.

On the bass end, Khaos has always been lurking towards the back of the mix, buried under the chaotic guitar-drum interplay. For the first time (I feel), you can hear the bass become prominent – ‘Famished For Breath’ being a good example of this. As for vocals, Mikko Aspa has outdone himself – part of it is the multi-tracking and layering, but even barring that his throw has gotten angrier and more compressed, his growls are more menacing, and there’s a part on ‘Famished’ where he sounds like he’s literally being strangled while he continues to sing (all of this under the assumption that it is indeed him on the vocals).

One of the defining features of DSO’s music has been the guitar sound. Ulcerate, among a chosen few, have managed to ape it to an extent, but once again it is apparent that the exact sound might prove inimitable – it’s a combination of the patch, the playing style and the way it’s mixed in with the drums and the occasionally distorted bass. On the third track, for instance, after the 3 minute mark, you get a glimpse at the alien tone when the riff moves to the 5th string with the almost buzzsaw-esque sound. Besides this, the horns, the choral voices, chants – all add to the eerie and bizarre atmosphere.

In terms of songwriting, there is not a single dull moment on this release, with the entire album being fairly high tempo, peppered with mid tempo refrains. It is hard to isolate riffs and bars save the slower tempos, where one can make out the odd times employed – sometimes 9, sometimes 7. Phrases and lines are resolved in the most unexpected of ways. It’s a rare display of technical prowess that does not make its complexity overt, and instead renders itself as a chaotic mass of sound that is largely impervious to quick and dirty analysis, making it a prime candidate for looping over and over. Find the official stream below.

III: Lyrics and Artwork:

“Oh, a black metal band – more Satan, I guess?” Well yes, but not in the way you would think. DSO goes for a ‘metaphysical interpretation of Satan”,(literal quote from an interview, one of three)- a theme they have explored starting with SMRC. Look at the art. It’s apparently the Homeric archer, Apollo – a candidacy that is further strengthened by the reference to Iatros – a name given to Apollo by a cult that worshipped him as a healer – stark contrast to his reputation as the bringer of plague and sickness. The chariot is being flown by crows/ravens (referenced in the title of the third track) – another creature sacred to Apollo (who is also credited with turning crows black – another instance of his inherently contradictory nature). But why Apollo, and what is he shooting an arrow at?

Let’s look at the third track from “Onward Where Most With Ravin I May Meet”:

O Father! Iatros! Witness thou anon!
The rotten splendor of what once was thy realm,
now shivering at the black threshold of the grave,
deprived of the compass of duality,
hence wretched and drowning in tenfold confusion.

As far as I can see, both from this reference and others, Apollo Iatros is the face of duality, the same duality that led to the birth of Christianity – to see how, we must go back to Plato and his allegory of the cave, where the famous notion of material reality being a shadow of the ‘true reality’ of platonic forms arises. Christianity took it to the extreme, delineating the realm of heaven/hell and the realm of earth – two distinct universes, with the terrestrial sphere a shadow cast using the illumination of an all powerful Godhead. Further duality was expressed through the notion of virtue and sin. It is this duality Hasjarl rejects, the God who is both destroyer and creator, man who is both sinful and virtuous.

The Synarchy of Molten Bones shall consist
of Men of worth and Men of ill intent
in abandoned yet equal numbers,
for their insurgent wills harbor
the seed of transgression alike.

As Frenchmen, DSO have an illustrious line of transgressionists and surrealists to look up to – starting (to some extent) from Baudelaire, Lautreamont, Breton and most importantly, Bataille, who espouses the philosophy of base materialism, whereby humans are creatures of excess – possessing excess energy, and delighting in expending the same. Another aspect of this was the notion that human thought evolves via transgression, by rejecting existing values to formulate new ones – ironically enough the starting point for humanity in the Adam and Eve parable, partaking of the forbidden fruit – the original transgression. And so it is that the new man is born, as is expressed in “Famished For Breath”:

Thou shalt precipitate History, 
those days of yonder,
and the solemn roots of the human race
into the furnace fraught with fire unquenchable.
The names of all things thou shalt feed
to the undying worm
and rejoice at the mumblings of a once potent tongue.

‘The undying worm’ is a reference to Mark 9:48:

And if your eye causes you to fall into sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

This might be an allusion to the gradual decay of the once great Greek civilization, or for the death of civilization as we know it in general. In some sense the new man is similar to Nietzsche’s ubermensch, one unfettered by the bindings of conventional morality and the essentially artificial construct of the good/evil duality, which seems to be the lyrical undercurrent for most of the album.

Thou shalt celebrate the conception and rise
of the New Man, to whom all he eats or drinks
is propagated malediction,
a Man pregnant with infernal flame,
standing on the devastation 
of all things past. 

IV: Conclusion:

I did not anticipate this post to be drag on this long, especially given the rather short playtime for the album itself (a little shy of 30 minutes), and these are just preliminary thoughts – I am sure I am yet to adequately explore the depths it has to offer, both in terms of the musical structures and the lyrical themes. It seems that with each release, Deathspell Omega are carving out part of a gigantic monolith, a treatise that is at once both musical and philosophical while remaining visceral enough to elicit the most primal responses of fear, fascination and sometimes outright admiration. “The Synarchy Of Molten Bones” is perhaps the densest of the lot – at once free and structured, and refined to a razor’s edge.

I’d like to end by summarizing this collective’s journey in their own words, taken from the title track:

This seed shall bloom with noxious flowers,
borne out of the mordant steel of scythes.

Buy it here

Complete Lyrics

D.D Dumbo — Utopia Defeated

Even though I have been looping D. D. Dumbo’s single, Satan, for the whole second half of 2016, I have never heard anything like Utopia Defeated in my life. I struggle to imagine anyone disliking this album, D.D Dumbo’s debut. I want to say it has something for everyone, but had I not heard this album and was coming into this review cold, a phrase like ‘something for everyone’ would have made me sceptical. See, that particular phrase is bandied about so freely. But take my word for it: this album really does have something for everyone.

If my earnestness from the paragraph before this has been enough to convince you to give this album a spin, my job is done. I’m sure the album will do a far better job of convincing you within the first fifteen seconds than any of my writing will. But if you’re still reading on, sceptical, let me tell you why this album makes my job remarkably difficult.

I want to convince you this is a great album. For that, it’s usually best to fall back on comparables, which for an album such as this is so difficult to do. On the one hand there’s the obvious world music influences, but to call Utopia Defeated world music would do it a great disservice (just as calling ever Goat album world music does that band a great deal of disservice). On the other hand there’s the obvious pop sensibility that underscores every song on the album.  In that way, I see a fair comparison to one of my musical heroes, Talking Heads, who melded pop, world music, and everything else into this genre-of-one-band sound.

So, instead of struggling to find comparables, I will resort to metaphor. Listening to Utopia Defeated often feels like a vacation in the hills — by day you stand in the middle of what seems like nowhere, arms outstretched, your face bathed in cold air and the warm sun; by night, you descend into a hill town, walking its streets, weaving through markets, cafes, and pubs. This album is hill and valley, night and day, cold and warm. It isn’t just an exaggeration of a portion of the human experience, but a meditation on the entirety of it. By the end of my first listen, I found myself feeling like I had just travelled to the hills and back, like I had been on a thirty-seven minute vacation. If that doesn’t convince you to give it a shot, I don’t know what will.

(Listen to the album whenever, wherever, however. It’s really really good.)

WIBLT # 2

Swet Shop Boys  Cashmere

Genre: hip-hopa0908914594_10

Year: 2016

Hip-hop lyrics have always been socially aware and snarky. The prevailing cliche about this album is its relevance to the brown experience of today. That cliche holds from song one (T5), about ‘random’ frisking of bestubbled brown men, to song eleven (Din-e-Ilahi), about the religion that Akbar attempted to propagate to bring peace to his multi-religious kingdom. I’m a Das Racist fanboy, and while Heems is a little hit-or-miss (I have heard him say ‘I am a good rapper’ in so many songs now), the hits are way more awesome than the misses are awful. And Riz MC (Riz Ahmed from the Night Of and the new Star Wars movie) is really quite something. It’s also nice to hear some South Asian samples in hip-hop.

Here’s the video for T5:

Get the full album here:

 

Soulwax  Nite Versions

Genre: hard 220px-nite_versionselectronica

Year: 2005

This is a rave album that can be enjoyed by non-ravers like me. Albums like this can make tubelights-and-white-walls sort of days feel like neon-lights-and-starry nights sort of days, even for boring adults like me. Even if you want to give the album a skip, at least give ‘Krack’ a spin. It’s a legitimately fun track.

Here’s the iTunes link: https://itun.es/in/oAsYe

Bad Religion  Stranger Than Fiction

Genre: melodic hardcore, 90’s punkbadreligionstrangerthanfiction

Year: 1994

1994 was an incredible year for rock in the mainstream. Jeff Buckley’s Grace, Nirvana’s unplugged gig, Green Day’s Dookie, Soundgarden’s Superunknown, Weezer’s first album. Of all the great 1994 rock albums, this is my favourite. It’s the reason why so many of my creative endeavours have the word ‘stranger’ in them, this one included.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself rolling my eyes a little at some of the lyrical themes, but there’s no doubting the sincerity in Greg Graffin’s every word. And oh my god, the harmonies slay, especially in songs like Tiny Voices. A personal side-note: This was the band that taught teenage me that punk music and the rest of life were not incompatible. Per Wikipedia, Gregory Walter Graffin, Ph.D, is an American punk rock singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, college lecturer, and author. I later discovered so many punk bands had academicians as key members, including the Offspring, Jawbreaker, and the Descendents (their first album was called Milo Goes To College, ffs).

Anyway, back to this album, I highly recommend it. The first four songs are just the most amazing way to start an album. There are no official links, but if you google ‘bad religion stranger than fiction’ you’ll find the whole album on YouTube.

Zao  Xenophobe / Fear Itselfstatic1-squarespace

Genre: Metalcore

Year: 2015

This is a less-than-seven-minute-long EP that feels like a complete assault on everything. Highly recommended. Unlike the next album, however, people who do not like metal are unlikely to have any interest in this one.

Yob  Atma

Genre: Doomyob-atma

Year: 2011

This is a metal album that, I think, both metalheads and non-metalheads will enjoy. This album is truly incredible. Like Sirens, which I reviewed last week, it’s a close-your-eyes-and-drift-away sort of album, and one of the best ones I have heard. Check it out here:

Nicolas Jaar — Sirens

Note: Anything Nicolas Jaar puts out comes with baggage. Space is Only Noise is a great album. His work on DARKSIDE is great. He’s only 26, and is already one of the most respected (electronic or otherwise) musicians in the world. It’s important to get all of this out of the way, because it takes away from how amazing Sirens, his second LP, is.

While listening to this album, I grappled with three music-related concepts. All three of them have something to do with ‘what’s in between’.

I Silence

I first became conscious of the compositional importance of silence while listening to James Blake’s self-titled debut LP. Between two chords, two notes, two words, he just let the song breathe. And instead of becoming boring, that made the album all the more interesting — the wait. It’s all about anticipation, the aural equivalent of watching a Hitchcock movie waiting for the frame to shift.

II Repetition

Here’s something punk taught me — repetition in music does not equal monotony. When done right, repetition can magically both ground music and make it seem transcendental. This is why we love driving bass lines (dun-dun-dun-dun). This is why we love choruses. This is why we love na-na-na-na.

III Non-semitone frequencies

What’s between A and A#? The frequency of A4 is 440 Hz, and the frequency of A#4 is 466 Hz. What’s 450 Hz? How we deal with this is by breaking an octave into 12 semitones and 100 cents. Cents are still discrete, though. (How do you map the frequencies of a guitar string being bent? That’s not discrete.)

So much of the beauty of the album is in these gaps. Sometimes the gaps are temporal (repetition, silence). Sometimes they are frequential. It is these gaps that make music an interactive artform, especially in albums such as this one. These gaps are the blanks you fill with your thoughts.

We all tell ourselves stories, even when we are listening to those of others. In between a fullstop and a capital letter is where you come in. Between the C# and the F of Smells Like Teen Spirit is where you can actually ‘smell’ ‘teen spirit’. This is why going to a club is so often excruciating if you aren’t dancing. “I can’t hear myself think,” you say.

^That is what Sirens is not. It’s an artist telling a story, but allowing you to interlace yours with it. Through conversations between the artist as a squeaky-voiced toddler and his father that form the spine of the album, you are a child looking at the world outside and trying to make sense of it. Through his trademark baritone sprechgesang vocals, you are an adult looking at a world you think you now understand better still struggling to make any sense of it.

My recommendation: pick a night on which you have thirty-eight minutes plus twenty to spend as you choose. Enter ‘nicolas jaar sirens’ into the search bar of your chosen mode of music consumption. Connect your headphones (recommended), earphones, or speakers. Turn out the lights. Close your eyes. Drift away. Tell yourself a story.

And if you like it, do it again and again and again.

GoGo Penguin – Man Made Object (a review by Unkitsch)

 

I shouldn’t have to write anything if you watch the video above. If you decide not to, then you’re clearly a little soft in the head to think that my words will in any way best this performance. But let’s say you’re that kind of a person, and you came to this blog expecting a review of some sort, and you need reasons to pick this album out of a million others to listen to.

Reason 1 – Impeccable Groove:

I listen to this album while commuting to work. I get completely absorbed in the songs as I get out of my house, walk towards the train station, wait for the train, get out, follow the same path that leads into a park and then 9 floors up to my office. I know that if I have left at the correct moment, I will be listening to “Weird Cat” just as I enter the park. I am completely in sync with the album, and by the time I’m done listening to it, I’m in the rhythm to work.

Reason 2 – Memorable Melodies:

Good jazz, or for that matter good music, should have memorable melodies. Take “My Favorite Things”, for instance, which has such a simple yet memorable melody, there have been innumerable renditions, and due to its stark simplicity, this Rodgers & Hammerstein classic has worn so many styles and flirted with so many great musicians, I could write an entire post devoted to it, which I someday will. But the point being, these guys know how to write hooks, melodies, and though one might imagine that the improvisational aspect is limited, I once again suggest listening to the album and then watch any of their live videos to note how subtly they improvise in near watertight structural restrictions, both rhythmic and melodic. Especially the drummer.

Reason 3 – Crystal Clear Production:

You can hear every note clearly – which is a combination of how the sections are composed and arranged, how cleanly they are played and how well recorded and mastered they are. I could transcribe a lot of the melodies and bass just by listening to them on my terrible laptop speakers.

Reason 4 – Jazz Induction:

If you have friends who aren’t really into jazz, or if you are a friend to someone who loves jazz but you don’t (in which case you’re a terrible friend – kidding) – this album can be a great gateway into jazz – especially if the jazz non-lover in concern has some appreciation for electronic music such as Aphex Twin (who is a major influence for the band, or so I’ve been told).

(stranger’s note: unkitsch blogs at howgoodisthisalbum.wordpress.com.)

WIBLT # 1

Here’s what I’ve been listening to:

ttdarkerhandcraftcover

Trap Them — Darker Handicraft

Genre: metal, hardcore, metalcore

Year: 2011

Trap Them are probably my favourite metal band around right now and this album is one of my favourite metal albums. Huge plus, this album is produced by Kurt Ballou, guitarist-producer of genre pioneers Converge, and producer of some of the best heavy records of the past two years (High on Fire, Nails, Sumac, Torche). I will be reviewing their latest release, Crown Feral, which already sounds pretty tasty, soon.

Necessaries — Event Horizon

Genre: early alternative, post-punk

Year: 1982

Full disclosure. I don’t really know anything about this band or the album. It was an accidental discovery, a very ‘internet age’ discovery. Having said that, I’m glad to have discovered this album. It sounds like a weirder Feelies or a less frantic Gang of Four.

(I can’t seem to find any sort of official link, but google the name of the artist and the album name, and you’ll find it on YouTube.)

Koushik — Be With2271175

Genre: instrumental hip-hop, chill, downtempo

Year: 2004

At first I was hesitant to give this album a shot, because it sounded like the sort of music that brain-dead yuppies listened to in their hard-day’s-night drug-taking parties. It had all the red flags reverb-soaked vocals, Ibiza-sounding guitars, a ‘chill’ album released on a hip-hop label (Stones Throw Records). Despite my closed-mindedness, I’ve grown to really like the album.

You can get it on iTunes/ Apple Music here: https://itun.es/in/nMIhe

Equiknoxx — Bird Sound Powerequiknoxx_bird_dds

Genre: hell if i know, post-dancehall apparently

Year: 2016

This is one of my favourite albums this year. I recommend you go into it cold, zero expectations.

You can get it off of apple music here: https://itun.es/in/Ni69db

Reuben — Racecar Is Racecar Backwardsreuben

Genre: high school crooning/screaming alternative rock/metal

Year: 2004

I decided to try this record out because I had never occurred to me that racecar is indeed racecar backwards. Once I got over memories of all the stupid things I had done in high school while listening of inferior versions of this album (whiny white-boy alternative metal), I started truly enjoying it. It’s not anyone’s favourite genre, but it’s a solid genre album.

Yet another iTunes/ Apple Music link: https://itun.es/in/zZRL2)

New Keepers of the Water Towers – Infernal Machine

I love this album. It is a mostly instrumental album that occupies that hard-to-define space between hard rock and heavy metal. Fans of psychedelic music will love it for its tones. Fans of groove metal will love it for its occasional head-bobbiness. Fans of prog will like it for its patient buildups. But most of all, and I think this is why the album works for me, fans of good old rock will just really enjoy the experience of listening (or drifting off) to the album.

Let me just take you through the experience of listening to Infernal Machine.

Song 1, The Forever War, sets the mood, preparing you perfectly for the rest of the album. It’s a meditative experience, and is one of the few tracks with vocals. Once you have been set up for the show, popcorn in hand and all, Tracks over Carcosa kicks into gear with a rumble filled with anticipation. A steady bassline rises – this is promising, you think – the drums kick in, tantalising drones surround you. It’s happening, you think. It’s happening, it’s happening, it’s happening. When the lead guitar hits… Oh. god. What is this? You are just being carried by this album’s undercurrent. You hit Tachyon Deep, the vocals are back for a bit, there’s some oddly tribal drum-beating. It’s all good; you shut your eyes and let the music wash over you. This album was made to be experienced full-force. Misantropin Kallar is a good interlude and all, but you are hankering for the next pick-me-up. And then… oh my GOD what is this? (Escape Aleph Minor, by the way.) You nod your way through to the anticipation-filled Jorden, instrumental motifs start to become more apparent, and a narrative starts to form. You google the album and discover on some obscure music review site (perhaps this one) that the album is a soundtrack to Joe Haldeman’s 1974 novel The Forever War (a novel I haven’t read or researched). Ah, the motifs make sense. It makes total sense. The album closer, This Infernal Machine, revisits many a motif; it sounds both familiar and unfamiliar – it’s going to tie the whole album up neatly, you sense. It’s all going to add up now, you sense.

And it does. It totally does. This truly is an album-lover’s album. It’s a delightful listen – a great experience from start to finish. I highly recommend it.

Here are some links:

  • The album’s bandcamp page.
  • If you like Apple Music, you will love this link.
  • A video for The Forever War.

Have a good time.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

 

I’m on my third listen of the new Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album. Professionals will moan that I haven’t had enough time to accurately judge the merits and demerits of the album given it’s just a few days old.

Well, I’m not being paid to do this, so here goes.

My general gripe with Nick Cave albums is that I find it hard to stay focussed on them. I’m the kind of rabid post-punk fan that loves the driving bassline and drumbeat tropes of the genre. Every time I put on a Nick Cave album, I am aware of its import, but I’m not always enthralled.

That’s probably my fault.

This hasn’t been the case with Skeleton Tree. I really quite like it. Personally, I love the album’s dreamy major-key moments on Skeleton Tree, Distant Sky, and Rings of Saturn, which has the album’s most memorable refrain:

And this is the moment, this is exactly what she is born to be / And this is what she does and this is what she is

This is not to say that the rest of the album is not just as great. My favourite song of the album is I Need You, which, to me was just a sad, sad song. It ticked off all my melodrama boxes, leaving me filled with regret about a dead relationship (Score!). At the end of every listen of the song (there have been several), I usually find myself agreeing broadly with its almost-cliché premise:

Nothing really matters.

There’s no doubt the album is a shade of blue, but unlike the other Nick Cave albums I have heard, it isn’t pitch-freaking-black. There’s an all-pervading sense of loss through the album, and on tracks like Girl in Amber, I get the sense that if you let yourself go, you’ll find yourself fighting back tears, but overall, the sadness does not overwhelm you.

And I think that the album generally avoids ^that pitfall is the reason why this is the first time I remember looping a Nick Cave album. Yes, Nick Cave is intended to be a purveyor of dirge-rock, and yes, I enter every album expecting dirge after sludgy dirge, but in this album, there seems to be a certain positivity (that I’m sure I’d find in all of his albums, if I were capable) in the form of  acceptance – a light to the usual black.

Overall, I recommend this album strongly. It’s more proof that 2016 has been the best year for music in my life so far. I will be listening to it often. But be warned, it is a sad album with the potential to be heart-rending under the right circumstances. Keep something cheerful ready in case it gets too much.

PS: Jesus Walks and I Need You are brilliants tracks to release as singles, but also probably the most depressing singles of the year. Here they are.

Jesus Alone

I Need You

Edit:

What El-P thinks: