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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Brimstone Coven – Self-titled (2014); Castle – Welcome to the Graveyard (2016)

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Brimstone CovenBrimstone Coven (Metal Blade Records, 05 August 2014)

 

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CastleWelcome to the Graveyard (Ván Records, 15 July 2016)

 

Good afternoon, all you fine people visiting the Valley. Things have gotten a little bit hectic around here recently — I’ll never understand what it is that makes people want to go on vacation in the summertime when it’s so gross and hot and humid outside. Given the choice, I’d rather sit in an air-conditioned office all day, and save days off for later when I really don’t feel like going. Not that much writing happens while I’m at work anyhow, I’m plenty busy enough doing my actual job, but I usually at least can spend the day listening to stuff, and jotting down some little notes that I can turn into a full article or review later. But sometimes lately I haven’t had much chance to even think, let alone formulate coherent sentences.

But as always, there’s tons of stuff happening in the music world, new releases to tell you about, older stuff that you may have missed but really deserves your attention, tours kicking off that just might be coming through your city. And this will be a blend of all of those things: one band whose new album comes out next month, and who started a tour (that will last pretty much all summer long!) just last week; another band who released an excellent album two years ago but somehow we never got around to sharing it with you, and who will be joining the first band for a handful of those shows in a few weeks. So keep on reading, you’ll hear some great music, and the full set of dates for each band will be listed down below in the comments …

 

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Cave of Swimmers – Cave of Swimmers (2014) and Reflection (2015)

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Cave of SwimmersCave of Swimmers (The Path Less Traveled Records, 15 April 2014)

 

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Cave of SwimmersReflection (self-released, 4 May 2015)

 

Dear Friends, I am thoroughly confused about something. It’s been about two months since Cave of Swimmers, the Venezuelan-American guitar/moog/vocals/drums duo who live in Miami, released their second album Reflection. This is a collection of four songs that are sheer excellence — every bit as fantastic as the four songs on their self-titled debut which had been released about a year prior — unquestionably one of the most incredible things I heard in 2014, and quite a pleasant out-of-nowhere surprise. So what I can’t understand is, at this point, why is this band not just exploding, and being lauded with overwhelming international renown??

To a small extent, I accept and acknowledge my share of the blame: on both occasions I’ve let trivial things like “being too busy at work to get much writing done” keep me from publicly sharing my thoughts on the release of these two brilliant albums (with one minor exception). Well that all ends today. Get ready to fill your ears with this…

 

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Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden (2014)

In the VIP section (balcony) at Mr. Small's Theatre (Pittsburgh), February 2013

In the VIP balcony at Mr. Small’s Theatre (Pittsburgh), February 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: for nearly two years, the Arkansas melodic doom quartet Pallbearer has been among my wife’s absolute favorite bands. I know she’d been eagerly snapping up every available bit of information leading up to the release of their second album; now that it’s been released, we listened to it together, and she had some strong reactions and opinions — so I asked whether she wanted to write something about it. So here is her review of Foundations of Burden.

 

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PallbearerFoundations of Burden (Profound Lore Records, 19 August 2014)

reviewed by Asya Yanyo

 

I first heard Pallbearer in December of 2012 on accident. I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a video that someone had posted, which I thought was something else. I clicked on it, I listened and I had no idea what I was in for ultimately. I have to admit, I felt an immediate kinship to this music. For much of my life, I have felt an attachment to a darker side of my personality; I often embrace being melancholy and don’t always see it as the burden that some people do with those types of emotions. Pallbearer definitely tapped into that for me. I felt instantaneously connected to each riff and sludgy chord. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, this band is mainly responsible for so much of the music I have discovered in this journey with my husband over the past three years. It’s clearly felt personal to me and I am sure, with all the recent hype, that I am not the only one who enjoys dwelling in the despair.

 

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The “Signmeto” Unsigned Band of the Week: Information Harvest

 

Hello, Readers!  It’s Monday, so of course it’s time once again for the “Signmeto” Unsigned Band of the Week feature.  As you should all know by now, this is when I write about an artist whose songs appear on the “Sign Me to Roadrunner Records” website.  People contact me there all the time, looking for reviews of their music, and I am more than happy to oblige. I listen to whatever they’ve got, and then I talk about it here, and then YOU (the devoted reader) can go check it out for yourself. Maybe you’ll really like what you hear. There’s only one way to find out, so let’s get started.

This week, I’ve got something totally different to share with you, and I’ve also got a request. It’s audience participation time! Usually when I check out a new artist over at Signmeto, I find a few songs that they have recorded for a collection of demos or promos, or sometimes even songs from an independently released EP or album. The goal, ostensibly, is to gain further exposure for the band, possibly even (judging by the name of the website) the chance at a contract with a record label. Well, today what we’re looking at will be more like rough sketches of unfinished songs, which have been posted for the purpose of soliciting feedback. These basic outlines have the potential to turn into something pretty great, so I think you should take the time to listen to them — hopefully you’ll have some great ideas of how something could be changed or improved (I’ve got faith in you, readers, because obviously you have good taste in music or you wouldn’t be here in the first place!).

 

The music you are about to hear was put together by a Rhode Islander named Andrew James Liles. I’ve gotten to know him as a reviewer, through my interaction with other members of the Signmeto website, and he seems like a pretty nice guy. Recently, Andrew sent me a request to check out these demos for his project Information Harvest, because he is getting together with the rest of the band soon to rehearse and work on fleshing out these songs a little more fully. As it stands currently, these are instrumental pieces with Mr. Liles playing the guitar, bass, and keyboard; some of the guitar solos or leads here might be replaced by vocals but he says he is still “on the fence” about whether or not to add vocals. Also these tracks are supported by drum loops temporarily; Andrew echoes my own sentiments 100% when he tells me he hates drum loops — so let’s all agree to ignore the fact that the drums currently sound terrible and fake, secure in the knowledge that they will ultimately be replaced by a living, breathing human drummer.

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