Locrian & Mamiffer – Bless Them That Curse You

12/02/2012 § Leave a comment

Each Locrian release is an unpolished gem. A murky, hard-edged jewel which speaks nothing but matte meanderings to most listeners. But if you manage to infiltrate the gateway to Locrian’s essence, to break open the crust of their projection, you’ll find rays of sonic luminescence within. They are a band who play via tumultuous disharmony but whose substance is built on subtlety. This collaboration between Chicago’s Locrian and Vashon’s Mamiffer takes their exploration of minimal art to new depths. Gone are the ten minute, lead-thick ramparts of sound; the long, piercing sharded solos and the looping, never-ending churns of feedback. This time round, we’re not having it handed to us on a platter. Bless Them That Curse You is not only an exercise in exploring your own preconceptions of the band, but transforming them, regenerating them and being truly open to what’s in front of you. It is about the strength of melody as much as the strength of noise, the similarities of extremes and the universal midpoint. It is about travelling to the core of something to understand its nature, its cause, its campaign.

On the surface a collaboration with Mamiffer – known for their piano-led ambiance, alternative rock and experimental melodies – seems like an unusual pairing. But the symbiosis between the two helixes on an extremely deep level, their understanding of each other’s inner nature being what makes the project so successful. Here, both ensembles are not out to just make music, but to cut slices from their own marrow and pass them to the other for translation. As such, BTTCY is more a work of ambient than it is of noise, more of fragility than extremity, and one that operates in a variety of different modes. It is a very intriguing undertaking indeed, but one which daren’t show its message to you immediately. There’s a shyness and stress to the real content here, and only repeated coaxing off of its layers will show it to you.

The beginning of the work showcases the harsh drones of the Locrian we’re familiar with, but before long these dampen down into something calmer and softer altogether: the raining, pattering piano chords of “Corpus Luteum”; the static, ghostly fuzz within “Lechatelierite” and the shimmering distance of melody within the title track. We’re even given a tracing of female vocals for the first third of the mammoth closing piece, “Metis”, before Locrian ratchet up their defence mechanisms once more as the sonic behemoth of “Amaranthine” groans and screams into the highly dark and unsettling finale, “The Emperor”. BTTCY is perfectly balanced on each side, bookended by thick noise at the beginning and end which coats a highly soft and delicate centre section. The album is almost like some kind of sonic valley: steep unscalable walls on either side sloping to a lush and tender middle. Maybe it’s not so much of an album as an exposé.

At times it’s difficult to see exactly who’s in control. Occasionally the wavelet of a piano track commands our immediate attention, only for us to discover we’ve been missing a subtle drone-like hum underneath it the entire time; or a thick glass-like section of ambiance will be little else but a window through to some subtle, gleaming guitar within. BTTCY plays around with image and power as much as it does your experiences of it: the sounds are as important as the spaces around them, and both band knows how to perfectly balance their forte. It is an impressive fusion of understanding and ability.

This is not an album which can be tied down or typecast though, it is a thoroughly independent piece of music. It will have the last laugh just when you think you’ve understood it. Epic in feeling as well as in construction, it pulls together multiple branches of drone, ambient and experimental music but lets them interact together on a minimalist level to complex effect. It bears a particular truth and reality within its centre – and this truth is not just of sound, nor expression, but of pneuma: the breath of clarity. BTTCY shows us the vital importance of self-knowledge, and both halves of this collaboration have chosen to share theirs admirably.

Rating: 4.5/5

Ʌ – Wire Migraine

01/10/2011 § Leave a comment

Up till 2011 witch house had been an incapable subgenre. A cripple, an invalid among the electronic underground. It was a scene built entirely on concept rather than content with hardly any talent in its halls. The fanbase, ironically, tended to agree. Witch house albums were generally badly rated even by supporters. It was clear what we all wanted: a cross between darkwave, dark ambient and the US chopped and screwed scene, the main problem was that no-one seemed to be any good at it. Most albums had ridiculous titles and imagery, and most witch house bands had strings of symbols for names. The whole thing was – quite literally – a joke. Highly-regarded bands like White Ring, Mater Susperior Vision, oOoOO and Salem got close to producing decent material but never went the distance. There was just no consistency, no heart in a music form whose genesis was construct rather than character.

Xavier Valentine seems to have seen these shortcomings and made a concerted effort to do something about it. Wire Migraine, the first full album from his Ʌ [Aarrcc] project, dispenses with the problems and prefabrications of the scene through staying firmly embedded in the soil of darkwave. It’s an album full of variety and flux but which never loses its own thread. It knows exactly what it wants and never wavers from its cause. It is a serious, palpable entity built on turmoil, trust and feeling, and it oozes quality from the opening notes. Throughout its twelve tracks we’re taken on a run of blissfully pained ambience; heavy, resonating EBM-like pulses; beautiful, melodious chillwave and dark gothic undertones all fronted by Xavier’s distorted vocal presence. And the whole thing never drops the ball for a moment. It is a monolith to the fabled consistency which the scene was so aridly gasping for previously.

Even though Wire Migraine consists of twelve songs, upon download you’ll find that the whole thing comes through as one track. This is doubtlessly intentional since the album is sinuously threaded together, each song bleeding and melting into the next. It is a work of wholesomeness and completion, its constituents are meant to stay uniform, not orphaned. And the segues are beautifully done, sometimes harshly and sometimes subtly. It can be the heavy bass drop into a faster number that will herald the change of track or sometimes just the humble drop into a new key from semitone to semitone. Wire Migraine is as much about achievement through subtlety as through excess.

Moments after hitting the play button it becomes apparent that we’re in for something special, that we are in the presence of a genuine artist rather than someone dubbing themselves as such for the notoriety. “Gunnell” opens the album with a staggeringly beautiful ambient track. No clichéd synths here, just echoing, gasped vocals swirling around a simple, minimalist piano track as single notes bounce us of from the distance, each one hitting with meaning and feeling. There is nothing incidental to this, we are already in a new realm, a dark underworld hollowed out through solace and lost essences. Things pick up for the excellent “Nothing” with it’s pounding, punctuating bassline and then rise to a disturbing crescendo at “Revenge City”, possibly the harshest track on the album with painfully distorted vocals. But even in these harsh moments, Valentine is able to retain an air of melody, an air of humanity, and as listeners we feel a natural empathy. These are not self-indulgent screams meant to affront us, but to communicate, to share and complete. In the varying emotions set out through the album it’s hard not to relate or to feel a familiarity with what’s on show.

“Hallowed House” in one of the album’s best moments comprising an ethereal, haunting ambient backing track with spoken vocals hammered into the foreground. Hearing a rap on a witch house album is almost as ridiculous as on a darkwave or goth one, but Valentine takes the chance here and it works astoundingly well. “Hallowed House” is, in a way, the album’s crowning moment: it shows Aarrcc as unafraid to take risks, certain of its own core and drive, pulling areas from other genres and moulding them beautifully to fit its own needs while giving us new perspectives and experiences. The album then ebbs into the harsher, more upbeat but melancholy Ambulance Muscle before dropping into the title track which serves as a wonderfully atmospheric finale.

Wire Migraine is an astounding achievement. It an album born fully from organic feeling and being. Nothing is forced. Everything about it, from it’s dripping, liquid ambient moments to its coarser, more disturbing clarion beats, is completely natural, convincing and lifelike. It is an album illustrated by an internal palette of pain, solace and sensuality, communicating each with beauty and honesty. Since the beginnings of witch house back in 2009, it’s sad that it took so long for the subgenre to come out with anything decent, but now that it has, it will take a while to top this. Wire Migraine should be seen as the hauling pin of the art form, one which other artists can look to for their own benchmark of quality. With a second album already in the works for release this Autumn, Aarrcc has his work cut out in binding this unstuck rabble.

Rating: 5/5

Locrian – Dort Ist Der Weg b/w Frozen In Ash

01/09/2011 § Leave a comment

Locrian are one of the few remaining ambassadors of the actual. Ever since their earlier, experimental days when they were releasing two-track splits and demos over cassette, they’ve never given the impression that they were in a formative stage, that they were finding their feet. Locrian hit the ground running from day one. And now, several albums down the line, the intensity of their sound and the genuineness of their essence haven’t been lost at all. If anything, Locrian are still on a road of expansion. It’s as if with every bar of their output the band are drip-feeding us piecemeal quantities from a dark colossus of emotion, one which never seems to be depleted: an ever-engorged, ever-strong and self-supporting axiom of personal distress. Their catalogue remains unstatic, a crusade which has been thoroughly mapped out with no fissure of uncertainty or overindulgence to crack their lacquer of self-knowledge, but it’s one which we’ll only ever travel at their pace. There are still surprises in store.

11th September will see the release of their first 7″ single through Flingco Sound System, consisting of a cover of Popul Vuh’s excellent Dort Ist Der Weg, and the original Frozen in Ash. Locrian take the canorous, waterlike fluidity of Popul Vuh’s original and give it a barbed tinge. However, this is no mere reworking or interpretation. Locrian’s vision enables them to coax hidden realities out of third-party sounds, to reignite dormant fires; they are able to extract and bring to the pulpit the quietened voice within another’s work. As such, this new exhalation hard-blown into the belly of 70′s Krautrock doesn’t feel forced or unnatural, but that it was always existent, it only took newer, fresher eyes to see it. The rising, spectre-like female vocals are still present as in the original but combined with the pinched, taut guitar tone, the experience is all the more electrifying. There’s a new, more meaningful undercurrent espied in this piece, and its realisation creates a tension for release. As the track builds, the instruments overlap till the guitar takes on a howling, droning scream which serves as a climax until it whithers and calms into a still ether.

Frozen in Ash is one of the finest moments of the band’s catalogue. Opening with a snipped, fuzzed and trebly post-rock feel, mixed with Steven’s pained screams, the band mix, fuse and bastardise elements of drone, doom and rock, all thrown in with the darkness and depth of black metal. Shortly, an acoustic guitar melody repeats percussively over the top while a faster drum rhythm appears and ebbs into the foreground. As the drumming intensifies, Frozen in Ash becomes alive with its own pulse, its own weight, gravity and being until finally everything drops and ceases as we are left hanging in the tipped scales of Locrian’s aural might, left with an immense afterglow of liberation. Locrian know the power of silence as much as the power of noise.

Being 12 minutes in length, you’d be forgiven for being skeptical as to the full effectiveness of this 7″. But Locrian don’t just create music, they create sentience. Every track of theirs carries its own life-force, its own pain and its own benevolence. Within each chord and note pounds the ice-blue nucleus of unrealised and misunderstood pain, folded with layer upon layer of sound and feeling. There is nothing casual to these messages, it’s possible to get lost in their tiers, their labyrinthine halls of devastation. Music of this sort lives and breathes its own being far beyond the gridded confines of genre lists. ‘Less is more’ would hardly be the tenet to suffice here – with Locrian, more is more.

Rating: 4.5/5

Pikacyu★Makoto – OM Sweet Home : We Are Shining Stars From Darkside

31/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Pikacyu*Makoto put on an amazing live show. I came across a video of theirs several weeks ago and was stunned by their energy, exuberance, acumen and general lack of give-a-fuckery towards music. Highlights veered between Makato thrashing around in an ape suit, Pikacyu squeaking like a rusted hinge while attacking the drums with vehemence and hatred, and at other times hanging off the roof truss screaming into a contact mic. It looked very much like an intriguing, aural-porn fusion of Aaron Dilloway and The White Stripes [well, someone had to make The White Stripes references].

This is really what art should be about these days. Especially when the music scene is all too full of overcautious copycat cheats desperate to push themselves up on each others’ heads, it’s refreshing to see a band turn up the flame and hurl their instruments around like balls in a tombola. But what happens all too often is the mistranslation from live show to disc. It’s a very difficult thing to do, and many bands have desperately tried to capture the energy of their live performances on CD with varying degrees of non-success. At The Drive in, for instance, recorded all of In/Casino/Out as a live studio album, whereas the eponymous Black Sabbath was recorded in only one day. It seems real energy only gets focussed into these discs when the band are under some kind of pressure or stress, otherwise the sense of urgency and ingenuity doesn’t quite come across. One shouldn’t be doing second takes on spontaneity.

So We Are Shining Stars From Darkside is a more downtuned, downturned and downbeat offering on disc from what you’d expect if you’d seen the band in a live setting. The main thrust of Pikacyu*Makoto’s work is psychedelic rock with a large quanity of experimental passages thrown in, recorded in a distanced, far-off manner to give it that spacey, ethereal sound all too common in the world of neo-psychedelia. Most of the guitar and instrumental work is undertaken by Acid Mother Temple’s Makoto, the multi-armed, multi-talented musician who seems to have his fingers in as many pies as Shiva on the munchies, and Pika (Higashi Mineko) who takes care of all the drum and vocal work, as well as the guitar on the final track, I’m In You.

Where the album succeeds is in the longer numbers. WASSFD depends on time in order to get its message successfully across – time to generate atmosphere and time to throw in as many elements of chaotic disorder as possible, hence Birth Star and the 11-minute Back To Your House Over The Rainbow are by far the most victorious numbers. Pika sings or shrieks her way through each track while Makoto provides the heaviest contribution to the atmosphere through the viscosity of his rolling and swirling guitar playing, thick with piquant coarseness. Here we see the true irony of the band, since though they deliver their messages most successfully in an erratic, frenzied manner onstage, the more introspective and spacelike moments shine brightest on CD.

So it’s a shame that most of the album isn’t made up of the latter, since the louder moments of WASSFD come across as either unconvincing, unmoving or just irritating. The Ginger Chai, for instance, is one of the most annoying songs I’ve heard in recent memory, a mid-paced, unbothered rock track with Pika bleeting “chai chai chai, chai-chai chai-chai-chai” like a little girl in a tantrum for seven minutes. Oscar No Hope is a 25-second, pointless, dissonant guitar splurge and AWA No UTU is four minutes of Pika whistling and babbling like a Priory in-patient. Done on occasion, moments like this could have spiced up the album with some interest and excitement, but they’re just too common: after several tracks the feel of the thing does get slightly tedious and we’re left craving for those longer, more involved pieces where the band get really successful at sculpting their own presence in the world of psychedelic rock.

What did we expect though, this is experimental music after all. Not every experiment is a success though – and Pikacyu*Makoto are still very much going through the iterations. I would love to see these people live, but listening to their recorded output is another matter entirely. WASSFD is a speculative work of experimental noise rock, and it feels like it. The Japanese have always been world leaders at the bizarre, but these days it takes a lot to make even the bizarre special. In a genre that has seen it all, Pikacyu*Makoto have what it takes to stand out, but this disc is purely a disc of potential, an detonative charge that never quite explodes as planned. Ironically, enforcing some musical boundaries – rather than trying to escape them – could make a second disc far more absorbing.

Rating: 2.5/5

Jarboe – Mahakali

01/03/2009 § Leave a comment

Artist: Jarboe
Title: Mahakali
Label: The End Records
Genre: Experimental / Rock

Track Listing:

01 MahaKali, of Terrifying Countenance
02 And The Sky Which Was Once Filled With Light…
03 The House Of Void
04 Transmogrification
05 From Afar, Upon The Back of a Tiger
06 The Soul Continues
07 A Sea Of Blood And Hollow Screaming
08 Overthrown
09 Mouth of Flames
10 Ascend

The last few years have seen an upsurge in exuberant female vocalists. The End records is one of richest sources for this category, bringing us the likes of Stolen Babies and Ayin Aleph; and now Jarboe, the multifaceted banshee from the Swans, has been added to the growing list. These artists are not the kind to appeal to the masses, but for the discerning listener who thinks they’ve heard everything in what female vocals have to offer. Jarboe has been at this end of the scene for quite a while and now, eleven years after moving on from the legendary Swans, is sculpting a niche for herself in the experimental music category, which she does not only inventively, but modestly.

Mahakali is an unassuming, self-effacing work which doesn’t so much rebelliously work against musical conventions but is far more happy creating its own. Jarboe’s voice is capable of an impressive array of vocal timbres from howls, shrieks and nightmarish wails to soft, sultry whispers with Gothic consonance. The music is tailored to suit the vocals, rather than the other way round, so Mahakali is really a strudel of different musical ideas hinged together by a spiritual theme, revolving around the eponymous Hindu God mentioned in various Sanskrit texts. Exactly why the band have chosen this theme for the album is hardly explained apart from the fact that the idea “just happened” in a rehearsal session. I’m losing count of the amount of artists who are using ancient Eastern history for a focal point on their album’s thematic structure: the lure of old India is certainly an attractive one, but it does feels like a bit of a crowbar concept here.

The array of vocals on Mahalaki doesn’t just involve female ones, there are male vocal contributions from Phillip Anselmo of Down/Pantera, and Attila Csihar from Mayhem, so the variety and calibre is certainly impressive. The music itself experiments with drawn-out, long atmospheric passages using guitar drones and wails, such as the melodic “Mahakali of Terrifying Countenance”, or the rather more disturbing “A Sea of Blood and Hollow Screaming”, that utilises guitar drones and vocal shrieks for a seemingly endless 8 minutes. There are more melodic, even poplike moments such as “House of Void” and “Overthrown” which even veers off into neofolk territory in places, whereas “Mouth of Flames” touches on neoclassical and soundtrack music.

More than anything Mahakali is about creating atmospheres of many different sorts. Its pastiche of emotions will take you down multiple dark routes but there’s no recurring musical theme, the thematic strain being carried by the lyrical content only. Jarboe seems at her best in the more confrontational vocal passages and though she can scream and tear her vocal chords apart for great effect, it’s not quite as bewitching as Runhild from KHLYST or Diamanda Galas, both of whom could be quite respectable inspirations. Indeed, it may be Jarboe’s intention to throw the listener around like a raffle ticket in a tombola but by halfway through the album it becomes quite difficult to care. Yes it’s clever, yes it’s very well done, but it seems to have little spirit, being more of an indulgence for the artist than the listener.

Mahakali doesn’t get too ambitious, always managing to stay within the confines of experiential music rather than avant-garde. It’s certainly not an easy listen but given the quantity of styles on this disc could end up appealing to people along quite a wide spectrum of genres. Metal fans might get off on the harder vocals and drones, whereas ethereal and post-rock fans will appreciate its more creative, lighter moments. Mahakali covers many bases, but probably too many to hold my attention from beginning to end, in spite of its inventiveness. It’s all very well having manifold parts to your influences but some cohesion wouldn’t have gone amiss.

uneXpect – In A Flesh Aquarium

22/12/2006 § Leave a comment

Take some standard ingredients, throw them in a big mixer, switch them around then flip it all upside-down. However, though I could quite easily sit down and enjoy one, two, or unhealthily large quantities of apple turnovers, getting all the way through uneXpect’s new album is not so easy to stomach. Now I know that some of the more self-labelling musos out there will instantly think that I haven’t given this album enough time and that it’s not possible that I can be a true, valid music interpreter because I don’t ‘get’ uneXpect’s sound but just what their ‘sound‘ is is debatable. Oh, and by the way that’s uneXpect, not Unexpect. be sure to get the capitalised lettering in the right places or BlooGG, TreewaRT and TwiNGLEfwuMP will come after you and impose a lesson on spelling in the world of avant-garde metal.

If anything, In A Flesh Aquarium is a unique piece of work. After all my years reviewing femme metal titles I don’t think I’ve ever come across something of such waywardly challenging proportions as this. I remember when I first heard Atrox I thought it wasn’t possible that anyone could like such a band, though after a while it became possible to see the patterns and shapes, indeed the intentions behind the music. The same is true of uneXpect, though to an even more impenetrable degree. Avant-garde metal is not about conjuring beautiful soundscapes or working with the odd uncommon time signature, but creating music that a lot of the time sounds like a freeform jazz band playing rugby. This is the sound of extreme music. Base-jumping for those with instruments. And it’s not surprising that a lot of the time it comes across as 20 car horns being fired from the top of a building. Meter, rhythm and groove seem to go out the window and what we’re left with is an apparent cacophony, but one which has been crafted carefully over a number of months though still having few discernable melodies.

And this may well be the intention. uneXpect are clearly very good musicians, astoundingly good in fact. The work and talent taken to make an album of these proportions is quite amazing. Still, at first listen, or even at third or fourth, In A Flesh Aquarium is likely to go totally over a lot of people’s heads. There is nothing particular here to keep you coming back if you’re into more standard forms of music, there are no hooks or easily-accessible sections. The band drop us right in the deep end from the word go: Chromatic Chimera is a reworking of an earlier uneXpect number on the We, Invaders album though what used to be a piano-only number has turned into a fully-fledged song with vocals and distortion, but it’s hardly an easy ride. The music stops and starts all over the place and it’s almost impossible to see where it’s going to go next or even sometimes where it’s come from. The same can certainly be said of Feasting Fools though it is Desert Urbania which, after a difficult trudge though the musical minefield, finally gives us some form of release since it does have a few noticeable riffs. Silence_011010701 is a serene instrumental in comparison to the rest of the album, and the three-part The Shiver starts off quietly and then goes on to what has now become the trademark madcap uneXpect sound by the final part.

Even though In A Flesh Aquarium is very well-played and well-written, there’s no question that this is not an easy album to listen to by any stretch. There is nothing here at all for the normal pop metal listener and it’s quite a slippery piece of work, evading and challenging everything that you thought you knew about metal – or even sometimes about music. However, all these things do not make it a brilliant piece of work, or even a good piece of work at times. If there’s one thing that IAFA is incapable of doing, it’s conjuring atmospheres. The band don’t use the music as tools for making people feel anything in particular, but tools for proving what it’s possible to do with frequencies, sounds, and the preconceptions of their listeners. It’s almost like looking at a Hieronymous Bosch painting or some of the architecture by Piet Blom: you can stare at it from a distance and marvel about the gumption it took to create it, but there’s little more that you can do with it.

Above all, whether you appreciate IAFA is very much to do with what you want to get out of it. If you like your music to prove a point rather than to make you feel anything remotely poignant, uneXpect could certainly be for you, but if you like a cedilla of emotion injected into the sound you choose to fill your head with then it won’t be your cup of tea. Technically it’s astonishing but tunefully, emotionally and melodically it’s little more than a metal band having a tantrum. Hopefully uneXpect’s next album will be more of a mature piece of work with some – God forbid – more understandable and relatable passages. If I sit down to listen to an album, I would rather it were something vaguely coherent than some sermonising technical rant from an avant-garde bunch of Canadians. Being unique, talented, and original does not always make good – or worthwhile – music.

7/10

Diablo Swing Orchestra – The Butcher’s Ballroom

01/09/2006 § Leave a comment

Diablo Swing Orchestra are clearly a group who don’t harbour concerns about being labelled since most of the work is done for you in the band title. Yes, their sound does have a swing element to it in parts and yes, there is certainly an air of ‘devil’ to the music. Don’t let the term ‘orchestra’ fool you too much, however. Though there is a wide variety of different instruments on this album, they are rarely played all at the same time, therefore the orchestral sense refers more to the quantity of instruments at the band’s disposal rather than the idea that you’ll get twenty things playing simultaneously. This removes any ostentatiousness or epic air from the band’s sound that some may have been concerned about, so the songs don’t give the impression of being played in the majesty of an opera house or orchestral pit, but rather in the backroom of some 18th century peasant tavern.

The Butcher’s Ballroom is really a journey through a variety of different song ideas, some jazz, some metal and some swing, and others which are short, one minute interludes which help mesh the album together. These interludes, for what they’re worth, are certainly not fillers since though they are only a minute or so each they are all beautifully executed. D’angelo, a clean operatic aria sang over acoustic guitar, Qualms Of Conscience, a soft, piano-led piece along the lines of the slower Beethoven or Chopin pieces and Gunpowder Chant, by far the most creepy song on the album, which purely consists of the murmur of a didgeridoo put to the beat of a snare drum, conjure up a classically dark but sinister atmosphere between each number which is bespoke to the tone of the album.

The full songs themselves are also quite different to one another though it is the first two tracks of the album, Balrog Boogie and Heroines, which are the most deserving of the Swing tag, both of which heavily use trumpets and the plucking of a cello to add to the swing feel. Indeed, this theme bleeds into the third track on the album, the wonderful fiesta-esque Poetic Pitbull Revolutions, which includes trumpets in abundance and sounds like something that might be played at a Spanish carnival. The rhythm is mostly carried by the drums rather than the guitars, since the drumbeats dictate what kind of feel each song is going to have while still managing to retain an undeniably metal air.

The band have decided to use operatic female vocals for all of the songs and though this might scream ‘Nightwish’ to some people, nothing could be further from the truth since though Nightwish started out with operatic vocals as a mistake, Diablo Swing Orchestra use them very intentionally and they work spectacularly with the music. Ann-Louice Lögdlund is no doubt an immense talent and it’s clear that she is not attempting to have an operatic voice for effect. Opera is obviously her forte, and this does help the music to have a highly unique and individual feel even though a lot of the songs, especially on first listen, may come across as a little challenging.

Not every song on the album may be as individual as the band would like, though. Clearly an effort has been made to make a lot of the tracks sound different especially when in so many metal albums it’s usual for some songs to sound like carbon copies of the next. However, towards the end of the album the songs start to trail off and sound like nothing too special anymore. The earlier songs have such strength, energy and fire and the later ones, since they’re not using the same tricks anymore, turn into more standard metal songs with no real hooks or centres.

Still, this is hardly a big criticism since overall the music is inventive enough to hold its own and it will definitely keep you coming back for more time and time again. In a way Diablo Swing Orchestra have treated us with their uniqueness and it’s easy to take them for granted when there is hardly any other band that they can be compared to, especially when it comes to metal bands with female vocalists. The years since making their EP have clearly been put to good use and we should all enjoy the results of such a labour. The Butcher’s Ballroom, whichever way you look at it, is a thoroughly original and well-executed debut that many bands could only hope to pull off, and others wouldn’t even have the creativity to envision.

8.5/10

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