5. My Bloody Valentine Ė m b v
My Bloody Valentine are a special band. Over a decade since the release of their seminal album, Loveless, people from all around the world are still discovering it and being highly inspired by it. Bandleader, Kevin Shields, changed music forever with the way he manipulates sounds, turning his music into thick walls of sound, and creating sounds youíd swear were keyboards with guitars. The band went on to be regarded as one of the innovators of the shoegaze genre and inspire rock bands for year to come. When they got back together in 2007, Iím sure people everywhere were super stoked, and since then Iím sure people have been wanting to hear new material, as Kevin Shields had reported to be working on new material. In late 2012, plans were made for the album to be released before the new year. Later in December 2012, they announced it was complete and mastered, and on January 27th, 2013, Kevin announced at a live gig that the album ďmight be out in a 2 or 3 daysĒ. After a lot of anticipation, the record was finally dropped on February 2nd, 2013. After 22 years since the release of Loveless, My Bloody Valentineís third LP, entitled ďm b vĒ delivers some of the best music 2013 had to offer.
While a lot of people were probably hoping for Loveless Pt. 2, that isnít whatís in store on ďm b vĒ. This record sees Kevin Shields breaking new ground, and making on overall quitter album, but thereís still plenty of awesome noise manipulations and the songs themselves would still sound great if they werenít slathered in effects. The Loveless line-up is in full effect: Kevinís guitar playing is as sharp as ever; Bilinda Butcherís voice is still absolutely angelic, Debbie Googeís bass lines are as fuzzy and groovy as ever and Colm ” CŪosoůig actually gives complete drum performances as opposed to being sampled as he was on Loveless. The first thing noticeable about ďm b vĒ is that the production sounds modern, which indicates that youíll be hearing a new My Bloody Valentine. The songs all have about the same mid pace through out the album. The first half of the record sounds like songs that couldíve been written after Loveless. The first track, She Found Now, starts the album off on a slow note, with a track thatís nothing but shoegazing guitars and soft vocals. The next track, Only Tomorrow, is a more upbeat song with drums and bass, and already shows the band starting to toy with sound like theyíre known for. Some of the guitar effects are bright and other sound shattered, and the band puts the vocals through effects at the end of the chorus, and the sound it produces almost mimics a slide whistle going up. The rest of the first half is definitely standard rock songs with all the sound manipulation that My Bloody Valentine is known for. The track Who Sees You features the infamous ďvacuum soundĒ with the main guitar melody. The last three songs of the record see the band unveiling material that is unlike anything My Bloody Valentine has done before. Thereís drum and bass like drums used on these songs, and a large use of the e-bow on the closing track, Wonder 2. Unfortunately the song ďNothing IsĒ is kind of a clunker. Itís really just a 2 second sample of distorted guitar with a drumbeat played for like 3 minutes. But other then that, every song on the record is badass. Overall, My Bloody Valentine made a hell of a comeback. All the songs, save one, are amazing testaments to the My Bloody Valentine legacy, proving that Kevin Shields still knows how to write and make some of the most interesting rock music the world has to offer.
Who Sees You
4. Children of God Ė We Set Fire To The Sky
Many bands work on a dynamic where there are a couple of definite sounds and moods to their music. A lot of metal bands switch off between clean and pretty passages and then more aggressive sections. Children of God choose a bipolar sound that switches between pure rage to completely crushing sorrow. Neither side is pretty. Across the 28 minutes of their debut album, Children of God give one of the rawest performances Iíve heard all year, combining elements of powerviolence, doom metal, black metal, and post-rock to create really emotionally charged music that leaves a lasting impact on the listener. The reason I likened their sound to being bipolar is because these shifts in sound practically happen on a moments notice. While some tracks features post-rock like buildup like the two parts of From The Sky, other tracks like Unrelenting Storm switch from hardcore riffage to doom metal trudging at a moments notice, making the shift in sound ever more powerful. The first half of the record is comprised of shorter songs, with the longest being just shy of 4 minutes. Some of these shorter songs also feature really awesome ideas that you donít hear in other hardcore influenced music, like the e-bow outro of From The Sky to the tribal drum outro on Awaken. The last songs on the record are longer, each exceeding 5 minutes, with the longest going at almost 7 minutes. These two feature post-rock like buildups and atmosphere before blowing up into sonic fury. The production on the record is top notch too. Every instrument sounds excellent, and the vocalistís scream is earth shattering. One moments of the record where itís just one or two instruments alone, like the drum+vocals intro on Offer, it almost sounds like you can hear the band in the studio, right in front of them performing the songs. Itís incredible and creates an almost intimate feeling with the music. Everything about this record is really well executed, from a production stand-point to song-writing. We Set Fire To The Sky is one of the most emotionally charged records Iíve heard in recent history, and itís as beautiful as it is hostile. Listen to this.
Where Do They Go?
3. Light Bearer Ė Sliver Tongue
UK post-metal band Light Bearer are one of best bands out there that tell a narrative both through their music, and with their music. Vocalist/lyricist, Alex CF, uses Light Bearer describes the narrative as ďa metaphorical story about the dawn of enlightenment, based upon a number of interpretations of the Judaeo Christian version of the casting out of Lucifer and the fall of man from the book of genesis.Ē In their first LP, Lapsus, the story of the fall of Lucifer is told. After Lucifer refuses to bow before man, as he only bows to his maker (referred to ďthe false godĒ by Alex CF), god casts Lucifer from heaven. After this, Lucifer is enlightened of the falsehood his god spoke, and decides to try and spread his word. Lapsus ends with Lucifer gathering followers and being cast to hell. As a result, the album sounded like betrayal and anguish. Silver Tongue stars with Lucifer trying to spread his word against the false god. The character of Lucifer is making an effort to shed light on the lies the false god has told, and through this album, his efforts donít go unheard.
As a result of the story, the music displayed on Silver Tongue has a much angrier tone. A lot of the heavier sections of the music feel to be more a derivative of crust, but they ultimately retain an overall sludgy tone. The soaring leads over the heavy riffage are as fierce as they are beautiful. Alex CFís shouts are more powerful than ever. But just because the album sounds angrier than any other Light Bearer material doesnít take away from any other aspect of their sound. Light Bearer still retains all the beauty and elegance of post-rock thatís found in their sound. Deep crescendos and glistening leads are ever present, only intensifying the heavy riffs that pummel the listener as the songs run their course. Thereís also more use of strings with plenty passages featuring violin and cello, both clean parts and heavy parts. The album also features a lot of brass instrumentation in the beginning and end of the record. The use of traditional instruments adds another layer to their already thick sound. The most interesting song on the record is the self-titled concluding track. The album starts off with a serene passage thatís almost reminiscent of the clean melodies featured on that latest Baroness record. It later erupts into an epic post-hardcore like riffs thatís got a really bright and positive attitude. I think this because lyrically, the narrative tells about Eve and her pursuit to spread the knowledge that Lucifer has bestowed on here. This epic sound is something else that is new to Light Bearer, and they pull it off so well. Overall, with a interesting narrative, riffs that are heavier than ever and beautiful post-rock sections, Light Bearerís sophomore effort just goes to show that theyíre the best post-metal band of this decade. If you like post-metal, you need to hear this.
Aggressor & Usurper
2. Deafhheaven Ė Sunbather
2013ís favorite (metal) album. I first fell in love with Deafheaven when I heard their debut record, Roads To Judah. The way the band combined post-rock and black metal was truly beautiful. When I heard they were releasing a follow up record in 2013, I was excited. When I heard the lead single off the record, Dream House, I knew I was in for amazing record. When it dropped, I loved in immediately. But I noticed I wasnít the only one. In fact, I was one of many. People everywhere where infatuated with Sunbather. From the metal realm, and from far outside the metal realm, Sunbather was getting praise and accolades. Letís hear why I think why.
The first thing I think is worth mentioning about Sunbather is that it sees a strong influence of shoegaze. While some could say there are some shoegaze sounds on their debut, I donít think it was nearly as noticeable as it is Sunbather. Every track features moments with huge guitar swells and walls of sound being created by guitarist Kerry McCoy. This new feature added to Deafheavenís sound definitely turned some heads. Another thing about Sunbather is that it attracted a lot people from the hardcore community. I think this is due to the fact that each of the albumís 4 main songs features a catchy refrain at the end of the song that is an open invitation to sing-alongs. The band also introduces a lot of new things to their sound with this record. The track Vertigo features a really lush intro with a really clever use of delay and beautiful use of an e-bow. The song also features the first guitar solo on a Deafheaven record. So with the band keeping true to their black metal and post-rock beginnings, and introducing sounds from shoegaze and screamo, and overall having a bit of a poppier sound, the band presents a lot for people to like, and reaches to a larger audience.
But what really makes Sunbather so amazing is the execution of the record. Itís really impressive considering that the whole record was written only by guitarist Kerry McCoy and vocalist George Clarke. Roads to Judah was a full band effort, but with the whole band leaving save the two original members, full creative control was left up to Kerry McCoy, and the fact that he so seamlessly combines so many different sounds to creative something so cohesive is incredible. And donít go thinking that because thereís a strong shoegaze sound and more pop sensibility that he record isnít heavy. The black metal influence is still strong and tracks like Dream House, Vertigo, and The Pecan Tree feature some of the bandís fiercest moments, with unrelenting tremolo picked riffs and George Clarke screaming his head off. Another interesting addition to the album is the transition tracks on the record. While Irresistible is a nice conclusion to Dream House, the other two arenít anything too great. Please Remember does feature some nice acoustic guitar work, but Windows is purely Godspeed You! Black Emperor worship with the samples of the street sermon and a drug deal. But those donít matter because the 4 main pieces of music are so badass. Deafheaven perfectly meld black metal, shoegaze, post-rock and screamo to create some of the most beautiful music 2013 has to offer. If you havenít listened to this record (HOW?) and you dig post-black metal/blackgaze, listen to this now.
The Pecan Tree
1. SubRosa Ė More Constant Than The Gods
Every now and again, a record will come out that compete floors you with how emotionally charged and authentic it is. The album seems to be a perfect representation of how the members of the band were feeling at that time, whatever it was they were feeling. Thatís what I felt with this record, whole-heartedly. SubRosa are a unique 5-piece sludge/doom metal band from Salt Lake City, Utah. As if being a doom metal from Utah wasnít interesting enough, the bandís line-up is 3/5ths are women and two of them play violin. With this interesting combination of musicians, SubRosaís 2011 record, No Help For The Mighty Ones, presented some of the darkest and heaviest doom Iíd ever heard. The riffs are heavier than tectonic plates, the melodies are full or sorrow and the way the violins are incorporated is nothing short of genius. The vocals are clean the vocal harmonies the three women on the record supply are amazing. So when I heard SubRosa announced they were releasing a new album, I was really excited, but I wasnít expecting to get hit with this massive of a record. More Constant Than The Gods is unlike anything Iíve heard before.
SubRosa still retains all the dark wonder thatís present on their debut, but multiplies it on this record in tons of new ways. The most noticeable thing they do on this record is feature some male vocals on the opening track, The Usher. The vocal trade off that happens over a guitar line with soaring violins is beautiful and you can truly feel the sorrow in their voice. This then erupts into a heavy-as-fuck riff while violins are still creating demented melodies that weep over these riffs. The doom assault continues the next track, Ghosts Of A Dead Empire, which features what is probably the heaviest riff of 2013. The sick violin melodies played on this track only make the song ever heavier and darker than the riff could alone (which is saying something). The next track, Cosey Mo, is actually kind of a sludge jam thatís as heavy as it is groovy, in the darkest way possible. Fat Of The Ram starts with a desolate and atmospheric intro, similar to Attack on Golden Mountain from their debut, then turns into a doom extravaganza with assaulting violins. The next track, Affliction, is one of the most unique metal songs Iíve heard all year. The main feature of the song is a demented, dissonant riff that actually comes from a distorted violin. It took me a good amount of listen to finally figure that out. The final track on the record is definitely the most interesting thing SubRosa have done. The track isnít a metal song. It features piano, guitar, violin, hammered dulcimer and flute. The song starts with a piano bass line and melody thatís ever so melancholic. Soon after a harmonized flute melody comes in, and you can hear some faint violin in the background. The singing on this track is full of emotion, especially when the harmonies kick in. The song builds up tension before exploding with a distorted guitar chord pedaling while an explosive flute solo busts out of nowhere. Puts anything you heard on the new Blood Ceremony to shame. After this the vocals come back in with flute and violins playing as the guitar continues to pedal. The song ends with the guitar pedal, flute, violin, and a wicked hammered dulcimer melody. Definitely one of the most interesting songs Iíve heard all year.
More Constant Than The Gods is the most beautiful, heart-wrenching, dark, and heavy album Iíve heard all year. The riffs beat you in the face, but what really shines in the emotional places this album goes to. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Rebecca Vernon dedicated this album to her mother that passed away in the last few years, and you can hear that in the music. There was a lot of energy and emotion put into making this record, and it shines. Itís obvious this served as a cathartic outlet for her. Music this mournful couldnít be more beautiful.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully everybody found something they could enjoy that they hadn't heard before.