In the 1960’s there were few guitarists more prolific and higher profile than Michael Bloomfield. Cutting his teeth with blues masters like Muddy Waters, session playing for Bob Dylan’s famed Highway 61 and backing him up at the legendary “electric” Newport Folk performance of 1965, then serving an essential role in the white rediscovery of the blues with the Paul Butterfield Band before playing at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival with his own band Electric Flag. What could be considered a career of legendary status for most, it was not a bad decade for Mike. In the 70’s he continued to do session work, collaborating frequently with fellow Dylan alum Al Kooper. Plagued by constant insomnia and personal demons, Bloomfield would die of an overdose in 1981. In an effort to elevate his old friend to the legend status he deserves, Al Kooper put together “From His Head to His Heart to His Hands”, a 3 CD box set showcasing some of his finest work. The DVD documentary, ” Sweet Blues” is included as well, profiling Bloomfield at work through all phases of his professional career. For anyone interested in blues, the San Francisco music scene in the late 60’s or the blues revival in America, this is as good a place as any to start. And when you hear his electric guitar, give a nod to Michael Bloomfield.
When each year is over, I’m always at a loss for how to summarize what a phenomenal year it’s been for metal, and 2013 was no different. It was the first year ever that a metal album was named the best record of the year by Metacritic, that Justin Bieber made his love for Metallica known, and that a metal cover of a pop song was voted to be the best out of 30 other covers. Normally, I wouldn’t give a flying fuck about these sensationalist news articles that exist only to get ratings and views. However, my recent trip to New York for the CMJ convention really taught me a lot about where the genre of metal stands right now in the grand scheme of things. To put it short: we metal heads NEED these kind of attention whoring events. With the music industry as a whole becoming less and less of a viable and sustainable option for many, the metal genre too is hurting because it’s not receiving the attention (and therefore sales) that it used to get back in the ’80s and early ’90s. That’s why I encourage people like Justin Bieber to wear a Metallica shirt, or for Kanye West to don “heavy metal” pants, no matter how atrocious they are. At least the metal genre is garnering more attention now than it has in the past decade. And while you may discourage attention from “non-trve” fans, keep in mind that the more attention the genre gets, the more sales, and thus money, it receives, which in turn emboldens upcoming artists to make new and exciting material, which (hopefully) garners more attention, and so on, until the circle of life is complete. /endrant
With that long winded tirade out of the way, let’s get back to what we’re all here for: me showing you a list of pretentious albums that you probably don’t care about but feel like you should because they’re my favorite albums of 2013. If you think you know better than I do, feel free to reply below, and I’ll take your choice into consideration as I cure cancer and solve world peace.
10) Pomegranate Tiger – Entities
Entities isn’t just a great album; it’s a great instrumental album, something that is becoming increasingly difficult to do in today’s over saturated instru-metal genre. What ‘s even more impressive is the fact that Pomegranate Tiger have managed to create an album that’s just as technically advanced as the frontrunners of the genre (see: Animals as Leaders, Scale the Summit) while also being a coherent piece of art. And it’s exactly that: the progressive metal outfit have created a work that doesn’t just flaunt their prowess, but progresses the waterlogged brand of music, something that was desperately needed.
Recommended Tracks: 2, 5, 11
I remember seeing Gorguts last year when they played with the Death to All group in San Francisco and thinking to myself, “This does not sound like a band whose last album was released eleven years ago.” Indeed, a year later, Gorguts has come out to show all the posers how it’s done with Colored Sands. With the record, Gorguts combines a few tricks they’ve learned with the trademarked technical brutality that they are just so damn good at. Couple that with the prowess of Kevin Hufnagel (of Dysrhythmia fame), and you’ve got one undeniably sexy record.
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3 9
Arguably the most elegant release this year, Memorial is an amalgamation of everything Russian Circles has been up to this point. While “Deficit” showcases their inhuman capacity for catchy hooks, “1777” extracts itself from Russian Circles’ earlier moments featuring beautiful soaring melodies that transcends everything in its class. Unfortunately, Russian Circles apparently suffers from a short attention span, as the album is well under normal LP length times. Clocking in at 37 minutes, its just 7 minutes longer than Between the Buried and Me’s Parallax EP. An unfair comparison maybe, but it is worth noting. Nevertheless, less of a great thing is a good problem to have, and it’s still an achievement in of itself to accomplish so much with so little.
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3, 6
Tell me, what were you thinking when Protest the Hero successfully funded their newest album Volition via Kickstarter? Were you thinking that the album would be as good as it was? Because I sure as hell was not. I was half expecting Choady to just run off with the money and buy as much cheap booze $300,000 could get him. Instead of shitty liquor, we’ve gotten Volition in return, and what an investment. The album’s chock full of what you’d expect from P T to the motherfucking H, but it’s also got a much more mature feel than their last effort. The record also harks back to the good ol’ days of Kezia, and even has a direct reference to Fortress in “Animal Bones,” which, if we’re being honest, I am a huge sucker for.
Recommended Tracks: 2, 5, 10
While Altar of Plagues is regrettably no more, we can celebrate their previous existence with their unforgettably enduring swan song that is Teethed Glory and Injury. During the album’s intense 48 minutes, you can definitively detect the painstaking detail that went into each and every note of the album. This record will chill you to your very core. It will rattle your mind. There is nothing easy about this album, which makes it that much more great. Unlocking an album of this magnitude takes time, but it is time well worth investing.
Recommended Tracks: 2, 5, 9
My deeply personal inner struggles with the ISIS disbandment has left many emotional scars on me, causing me to have trust issues with post-metal bands. However, there is one outfit that I can always have confidence in: Cult of Luna. With Vertikal, they’ve solidified what I’ve always known: they’re the best active post-metal ensemble right now (come at me Neurosis). And what a way to showcase their vast expertise and knowledge: Vertikal is a concept album that, at its core, deals with a government who is corrupted in a big-brother fashion. With the NSA scandal, never before is such a notion as relevant as it is today, and Vertikal was released before that defamation even occurred. Either Cult of Luna are indeed really good at writing concept albums, or they’re psychics from another dimension. I’m leaning towards the latter.
Recommended Tracks: 2, 6, 8
4) Deafheaven – Sunbather
No band on this list, and potentially in all of metal, shows more blinding potential than San Francisco’s own Deafheaven. Everywhere I look, George Clark (vocalist) is right there with his creepy ass stare. Hell, they were even in an Apple advertisement for fuck’s sake. Combine their increase in popularity with an entrancing live performance, and there’s only one thing missing for this band to blow up: good music. HAH. Just kidding. Sunbather kicks monumental anus. The record perfectly treads the line between uplifting affection and sinister despair.
Recommended Tracks: 1, 5, 7
Talk about coming out of nowhere. By the time I had heard this album for the first time, I already had my top ten list nicely made and organized, and Ovid’s Withering throws their debut album right out of left field to fuck everything up. And I couldn’t be happier about it. Scryers of the Ibis is everything I have ever wanted from a technical metal record, and more that I couldn’t have ever dreamed of. From the absurdly destructive riffs to the intricately and impeccably placed electronic segments, Scryers of the Ibis is one of the greatest debuts of any technical metal outfit in history. Period.
Recommended Tracks: 4, 8, 12
Coal is arguably the most criminally overlooked album this year. It’s also one of the best progressive metal albums in recent years. No more is Leprous just Ihsahn’s “back up band.” Gone is the looming moniker of “Opeth wannabes.” Leprous is a genuinely original band with a hell of a lot of talent, and Coal features every aspect of their incredible musicianship. From Einar’s soaring vocals to the ridiculously catchy rhythms by bassist Martin, this album has everything you would ever want from a progressive metal record. Also, I don’t care what anyone says, but “The Valley” is undoubtedly the best song of the year.
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3, 5
Ultimately, there’s not much to say about a #1 album of the year except to simply yell through your computer LISTEN TO THIS GODDAMN ALBUM OR I WILL SHOVE IT INSIDE YOUR EARHOLES. Assuming you have listened to it, here’s a reason why this is the definitive metal record of the year: it’s a concept album about the motherfucking depths of the ocean written by a band called The Ocean. All kidding aside, Pelagial is, in this humble writer’s opinion, the epitome of a perfectly executed metal record. It’s coherent in every sense of the word. Each song flows flawlessly into each other. Everything is meticulously placed where it should be while still feeling natural and organic. It is the perfect mix of experimentation and execution. There will never be another record quite like Pelagial, and because of it there will never be another year quite like 2013.
Recommended Tracks: 2, 4, 9
Boredom. It’s all around us — in our classrooms, at the park, in our bedrooms, choking up our thoughts and actions like static on the TV screen. Disaffected youth toss cigarette butts into the streets in front of the local 7-11, spitting half-baked rhymes at passersby while their parents cower in cubicles, scratching their heads in the composition of a late-night email. Mid-level camaraderie congresses around the coffee pot at noon and there’s talk of prime rib and real estate and ‘the market’. In Omaha, Nebraska, no one knows boredom with more intimacy than Yuppies. In the summer of 2007, Jack Begley, Kevin Donahue and Noah Sterba came together very deliberately to end their boredom forever by performing punk rock live to a basement of kids who were bored just like them. With the addition of Jeff Sedrel on the bass in 2010 and a tour-heavy three years to follow, the rawness of their particular cut of rock n’ roll gristle was cooked through in the form of a self-titled debut on Dull Tools, a label run by fellow no-wave drill sergeant Andrew Savage (Parquet Courts). Vocalist Jack Begley forewarns listeners that we’re going for a ride, whether you like it or not, and nothing cures boredom like a swift kick to the gut and a crash test to the tympanic threshold. The sprawling, screeching manifesto to all that is death-proof in punk rock is recorded almost entirely in one take, lurching into song after song without ever skidding to a stop until we passengers throw the record out the window. It’s a flesh-singing, ball-tearing scrap of angular rock n’roll damage and it fuckin’ rules. Grip your copy of Yuppies through the label or check out their bandcamp next time boredom strikes, ’cause not all idle hands can work the blood and sweat out of an electric guitar like these Nebraskan devils can.
Depeche Mode’s new CD “DELTA MACHINE” has the group back with the electro-grundge sound that harkens back to their mid ’90s material. The group now features a full-time drummer and Martin seems to play guitars most of the time.
‘Welcome To My World’ opens the album with heavy beats and an ominus soundscape.
The first single release ‘Angel’ is as heavy with lots of clicks and buzzing chirps.
‘Heaven’ is the second single that features duets with lead singer Dave Gahan and lyracist Martin Gore.
‘Broken’ is a likeable mellow tune with a sinister electro beat.
“You can’t fake it, I can feel it, You were broken from the start”
‘Should Be Higher’ opens like a rush of fresh air at a slow pace with a big bass drum beat with a progressive drive.
“Your lies are more attractive then the truth”
‘Soothe My Soul’ is the third single release and perhaps my favorite and it’s danceable. A lusty song about knocking down doors and getting what ya need.
“There’s only one way to soothe my soul!”
‘Alone’ is a hypnotic track about looking back at past love and circumstance.
“I was there when you needed me most…”
On a scale of 1 to 10, lamest to greatest, I give Delta Machine a 7.
Will it be a classic? Probably not.
Would I listen to it again? Yes.
Depeche Mode play live at Shoreline on Thursday, September 28th with Crystal Castles opening.
For a great live preview performance, search for the Depeche Mode “Live On Lettermen” 2013 webcast!
-DJ Danny “On The Radio”
“Living In The ’80s”
Post metal outfit Rosetta have recently undergone a thorough face-lift. Their “modernized” band logo is entirely unreadable. Their new album cover is a striking aberration from the ensemble’s previous artworks. They’ve become their own band, removing themselves from their previous record label. What does all this reconstruction translate into? Is this metamorphosis significant and worthwhile, or is it simply change for change’s sake?
1. Ryu / Tradition
2. Fudo / The Immovable Deity
3. In & Yo / Dualities of the Way
4. Oku / The Secrets
5. Hodoku / Compassion
6. Myo / The Miraculous
7. Hara / The Center
8. Ku / Emptiness
9. Shugyo / Austerity
Musically speaking, Rosetta haven’t adjusted much, but the variations that do exist are subtle, requiring multiple playthroughs to uncover the hidden gems. One of the most prominent examples of this is the fade from “Oku / The Secrets” to “Hodoku / Compassion.” The latter plays its part extremely well as the interlude in the album, but it could feel out of place if not for the wise decision to slowly evaporate from the aggressive into the calm and serene. The instrumental “Ku / Emptiness” is arguably the strongest song on the album, as it draws from an extremely wide range of influences and goes all over the place in a delicate yet stable manner. It’s these small yet vital touches of awareness and creativity strewn throughout that showcase Rosetta’s increased maturity since The Galilean Satellites.
However, faults most certainly exist within this record. “Myo / The Miraculous”, the shortest song in the record, is also one of the most promising, as it sees Rosetta breaking out of the shell that they seem to have placed themselves in. However, it ends all too abruptly and without reason, making the endeavor a frustrating and lacking listen. “Shugyo / Austerity”, the outro to the album, isn’t really a song so much as an ambient experience. This might not be a problem for some, but for others it can last for far too long with little to no gratification. It hinders ones aural involvement with the album, and ultimately the record would feel much more satisfying if it was simply taken out, or at the very least three minutes shorter.
Rosetta have, without a doubt, created a musical venture that invokes a wide range of emotions, encompassing both vigor and, unfortunately, disappointment. That’s not to say there aren’t moments here that aren’t rewarding. There are songs present that are encouraging for long time Rosetta fans, as they display a unique angle on their patented sound that is vehemently screaming to be explored. For The Anaesthete, though, a physical change in appearance doesn’t translate into a much needed musical change in sound.
Rosetta’s The Anaesthete gets 3 Lobster Corgis out of 5
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are a seven-piece psychedelic rock group from Victoria, Australia, whose previous albums (including 2012’s garagey/surfy psych rock jam sesh 12 Bar Bruise and this year’s Morricone-and-Jodorowsky-telling-stories-by-the-campfire mini-opus Eyes Like the Sky) rocked harder than an alligator with sweet shades shredding a guitar surfing through a black hole, are back with a new record, titled Float Along – Fill Your Lungs. The album is a 21st century peyote-fueled vision quest through newly-discovered oceans on Mars, complete with synth swaths, self-ingiting six string space explosions, and a whole bunch of sitar. It’s a jam-packed psych pop odyssey, swishing between a pair of twisting, labyrinthine grooves that’ll have you clinging like a koala to a rocketship.
Take a listen right here and go on a shredtastic voyage!