Opeth – Sorceress (2016)

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OpethSorceress (Moderbolaget Records / distributed by Nuclear Blast, 30 September 2016)

 
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Abbey Road. “The White Album.” Widely considered to be hugely influential milestones in the history of recorded music. And yet the group responsible for these masterpieces began its career with mindless bubblegum-pop: stuff like “Love, love me do / You know I love you / I’ll always be true / So please love me do,” “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah / She loves you, yeah yeah yeah / She loves you, yeah yeah yeah yeah,” and “I wanna hold your hand / I wanna hold your hand / I wanna hold your hand / I wanna hold your hand.”

Certainly that’s a pretty extreme example, but the point here is that when a band experiences a seismic styistic shift, it isn’t always catastrophic, and can even be a positive thing. Naturally, when this occurs it can sometimes be unnerving to fans of the artist’s earlier work (and of course there have been plenty of moments where such a move did turn out to be a major misstep), but it never ceases to confound me, how often and how passionately hatred is spewed in the direction of Opeth for having developed a different sound over their quarter-century-plus career. This group of Swedes receives just as many nasty comments (particularly if the band is ever mentioned in the context of a metal festival or anything to do with metal music) for NOT making the same album over and over, as Six Feet Under does for essentially the exact opposite transgression.

The transition from death metal to progressive death metal occurred very early in this band’s existence, and it was the latter guise that caught most fans’ attention, gaining the ensemble a huge following. But throughout the course of a dozen full-length albums, gradually the elements of “death” had dropped away, and ultimately “metal” as well, landing Opeth squarely in the realm of “progressive” music, and leaving many earlier devotees feeling shortchanged. Nevertheless, in this reviewer’s opinion the band’s latest effort, last September’s Sorceress stands up quite well — when one judges it on its own merits, rather than attempting a side-by-side comparison with Still Life or Blackwater Park. And with that in mind, let’s jump right in.
 
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The Huge List of 2012 Year-End Lists!

Well, friends, here we find ourselves in the waning moments of 2012. It’s been an interesting, eventful year that’s had lots of high and low points — a ton of excellent new music has been released and quite a few brand-new bands have emerged that I’d fully expect to be making some serious waves in the near future.

One of the best things about 2012, for me personally, was that I found myself (and my wife) going to lots more shows than in recent years, and as a result I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of new people — as well as starting to take a way more active role in the local music scene.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I had a suggestion from one of those people I’ve gotten to know in the past year (I won’t say who — he said he preferred not to be given credit for the idea, although I will say that it’s somebody who contributed to this). The idea was to collect top-ten lists from various folks in the Pittsburgh metal community.

So I put out an open invitation for any musicians or other people who are involved in the scene in some way — I was looking for anything, whether it was the traditional “Top Ten Albums” or something totally off-the-wall like someone’s ten favorite sandwiches they ate during the year. Really, the only rules were that it had to be a list, and involve something from 2012.

 
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VOS Interview: A Drummer Double Feature! Molasses Barge vs. Vulture!

Hello folks, and a happy Friday to you! Just when it felt like it would never happen, the weekend’s finally here. I’ve got a feeling this is going to be an especially good one, because there’s a ton of amazing shows and events happening! I’ll have more on that later, so stay tuned.

One of them in particular stands out, though — tomorrow night at the 31st Street Pub is the first date on the joint headlining tour between Relapse Records artists 16 and Tombs. That by itself is reason enough to get excited, but opening the show will be two of my absolute favorite local bands, the heavy doom armada that is Molasses Barge and Steel City sludgelords Vulture!

I’ve only seen Molasses Barge once before (and it was over a year ago! — read more about that here), and (believe it or not) although I’ve been listening to Vulture for a long time, I’ve never had the chance to see them play live yet! So needless to say, I’m really looking forward to this show. I’ve already got my tickets (they can be ordered here) but if you don’t, it’s just twelve bucks when you show up at the door. More info on the show itself can be found here.

Anyway, in anticipation of this event, I decided to get a couple of interviews lined up. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you may have picked up on the fact that I often tend to focus on drumming while listening to music. It’s just the way I hear things, I guess — and I don’t know if it’s because I play drums (occasionally) or if I chose to play that instrument because it’s something I pay a lot of attention to.

In either case, the drumming in each of these bands’ genres is one of the main things that attracts me to those particular styles. So, it only seemed natural for me to talk to the two bands’ drummers. Here, then, are the questions and answers from Molasses Barge’s Wayne Massey and Vulture’s Kelly Gabany

 

 

 
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Just Released: Hail Spirit Noir – Pneuma

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Hail Spirit NoirPneuma (Code666, 5 March 2012)

(This is the second in a series of two album reviews today, for two very different, yet equally awesome, Central Macedonian bands. To read about Descensus Ad Inferos by Erevos, head in this direction.)

 

Pneuma (πνεύμα, or Spirit in English) is the debut release from Thessalonian duo Hail Spirit Noir, which consists of Haris (synths) and Theoharis Liratzakis (guitar/vocals), both of whom serve in those same roles in the avant-black ensemble Transcending Bizarre?.  HSN has been in existence for about two years now, and much of this time was spent composing the material found on Pneuma, which was then put to tape at Lunatech Studios (near Mount Olympus), rounded out by guest musicians Dim Douvras on bass (who also mixed the recording), Ioannis Giahoudis on drums, and Dimitris Dimitrakopoulos who provided additional vocals.  Acclaimed Swedish engineer Jens Bogren then mastered the final product, and earlier this month Code666 Records made it available worldwide.

At least, that’s what happened according to the record label’s official press release (which also refers to the group’s music as “psychedelic prog black to tear your psyche apart”).  Now, I’m not trying to imply that any of this information is inaccurate in any way.  But having listened to this album pretty much nonstop for several days, I’ve found that what these guys have crafted is so uniquely compelling, I would have been willing to believe it if I had been told there was a bit more to the story of its inception than that.

 

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