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Apparently this Canadian band performed grindcore before switching to black metal in recent years. There's certainly an intensity to Thought Form Descent that's suggestive of their background, with roaring vocals and heavy blast beats being major features. Unlike the short burst songwriting of grindcore though, Wake have crafted lengthy, shifting black metal works for this release. It's taken me a while to really appreciate what they're doing, mostly because the guitars are lower in the mix than would be ideal, but I can't deny that this is a solid, impactful album. Bleeding Eyes of the Watcher, the track I included on the recent North playlist, is particularly great, pushing this from a 3.5 to a 4 for me. I'd like to hear more riffs on future releases though, as they're good when they're not hidden behind the onslaught.
2022 RANKING (62 releases so far)
24. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard - The Harvest - 4 stars
25. Wake - Through Form Descent - 4 stars
26. Bríi - Corpos transparentes - 4 stars
2022 BLACK RANKING (28 releases so far)
9. Wiegedood - There's Always Blood at the End of the Road - 4 stars
10. Wake - Through Form Descent - 4 stars
11. Bríi - Corpos transparentes - 4 stars
2022 has been a surprisingly good year for post-rock so far. Perhaps this year was a bad one to finally hang up the reviewing jacket since it was, in fact, post-rock that eventually led to my departure in the first place. 2021 was such a boring year for all different styles of post-rock and adjacent music. Leave it to Black Country, New Road and foxtails in hardcore punk to give me one final hurrah at the start of this year before being swamped with a bunch of indistinguishable mush and my eventual departure.
Of course, it was likely that post-metal would have to get involved in this somehow. And since my review retirement did not include heavy metal, I figured I would give the new Ashenspire album, Hostile Architecture, a spin or two. And as much as I do not want to admit it, it is albums just like this one that distanced me from the critical world of album reviews.
Let's start off with the positives because there are a lot of them. The production of this album is splendid. This album has great chemistry between the guitars and bass lines. I personally found the guitars to sound a little groggy during the heavy chugging passages, but an album like this does not focus on metalcore adjacent breakdowns and mixing very much. The percussion is top notch, borrowing a lot from black metal with some ferocious blast beat patterns that do not become overbearing. While the vocals did take a little bit of time to get used to, I found them to be quite strong, especially with the precise pronunciation and diction. And I would be remised if I didn't mention the quasi jazz saxophone solos that appear on this record sporadically. The horns sound dark and full instead of the brighter sounds that run rampant on a number of recent metal albums, from bands such as White Ward.
But my biggest issue with this album is the content. Now look, I'm not going to come on here and bash the album for its timeliness and cringe inducing lyricism; especially sine it is coming from a political point of view that I abandoned a long time ago. But let's compare it to Ants From Up There by Black Country, New Road from earlier this year. That album was not necessarily political, but it had an arc surrounding it that was brought forth in the music. Hooks were sparse, but small vocal motifs were allowed to resonate and give them a quiet anthemic feel. By comparison sake, Hostile Architecture doesn't have motifs either, but the vocals are so flustered and all over the place that they don't provide the listener with any sort of anthemic power. To me, the vocals of Hostile Architecture sound like a sermon; a sermon that I hopelessly tuned out of as early as "Béton Brut".
There is a reason why Rage Against the Machine's music is so poignant to this day, and it's not because of the messaging. It's the timelessness of it all, plus the quick jabs during their choruses are so instantly anthemic. Ashenspire created an album here that has populism, and you could make the argument that the vocals are delivered with power, but the precision is severely lacking. I would like this album more if it was just an instrumental one.
Best Songs: Plattenbau Persphone Praxis, Tragic Heroin, Apathy as Arsenic Lethargy as Lead
For my money, funeral doom metal is possibly the most primal of all metal genres. The immense crushing weight it conveys speaks of the unimaginably massive forces that shaped our world and, indeed, the universe itself back in the furthest aeons of time. There is also a form of funeral doom that is less heavy but, in a way, is almost spiritual in what it calls to within those willing to receive it. When I say spiritual, I don't mean in a, for want of a better word, "god-centric" way. This type of spirituality predates any man-made anthroporphism of the forces at work and instead speaks to an interconnectedness with the flow and essence of these inconceivable forces and energies that is buried deep inside all of us.
Until Death Overtakes Me's Prelude to Monolith is exactly one such release. It's iteration of funeral doom is not going to leave you gasping for air like an Esoteric or Ahab album, for it's touch is not quite as pulverisingly massive. Rather, it draws on dark ambient for inspiration and weaves it throughout it's sixty-eight minutes with the effect of leavening some of the sheer weight with lighter, more ethereal threads. There is a "booming" nature to the drum sound that is suggestive of tympani drums and that always adds an esoteric (small "e") atmosphere and that is reinforced by the sometimes barely perceptible rumble of the vocals. Overlaying this is a thin keyboard drone that is reminiscent of Thergothon's Stream From the Heavens. The whole effect makes for a remarkably relaxing-sounding album that cradles and croons rather than overwhelms the listener, allowing them to touch the infinite, if only for a mere heavenly hour!
Four albums into their career, and it took a band falling apart internally to put together what I consider their best work. 'Declaration of a Headhunter' was strung together by guitarist Rich Ward and co. while the band struggled through drug problems, burnout, general bickering, and the added kick to the head that nu metal was becoming a worldwide phenomenon while Stuck Mojo (who were nu metal way before the term was even coined) were being left behind.
"Rap metal" has always been a dirty word to metal fans, and the aforementioned nu metal scene of the early 2000's (which relied heavily on rapping vocals) certainly didn't help to endear the style to more people. As it is, while this is some of Stuck Mojo's best work, it mostly always ends up being overlooked and passed off as nothing more than cheesy and tacky.
Now, I respect everyone's right to an opinion, but in this case, you're all wrong.
'Declaration...' is a fantastic release by one of the pioneers of rap metal. With some of their tightest and most polished songwriting, Rich Ward's signature guitar riffs being some of the best he's ever written, and a coherent use of rapping, singing and growling, this album has it all! There's an abundance of backing vocals and guest appearances, helping compensate for the lack of Bonz during the making of this album, but it works amazingly and fits the music.
Featuring some of their most politically-charged lyrics, their heaviest songs, and interesting spoken intervals that touch upon some thought-provoking subjects (which still hold up all these years later), this should have been the album to put Stuck Mojo in the big leagues where they belong. Tracks like 'Raise the Deadman', 'Drawing Blood', 'Give War a Chance', 'Evilution', 'Hatebreed'... the whole damn lot of 'em... are all examples of why rap metal should never be so casually disregarded.
'Declaration of a Headhunter' is without a doubt one of the most underrated albums, by one of the most underrated bands, of all time. A true masterpiece of heavy metal and hip hop.
'The Number of the Beast' is the album that gave birth to the Iron Maiden we all know and love today. Besides a number of memorable hits that have remained a staple in live sets, it's most notable for featuring the debut of Bruce Dickinson, a man who would go on to become one of the most beloved and recognizable singers in metal.
Musically and sonically, this isn't much different than Iron Maiden's previous two albums. Rough and gritty 80's new wave of British heavy metal, the only remarkable differences, besides the addition of a superior vocalist, is the slightly stronger compositions. Most notable being two of their biggest hits (which still hold that title today), 'The Number of the Beast' and 'Run to the Hills'.
Of course, there's also other Maiden classics such as 'Hallowed Be Thy Name', 'The Prisoner' and 'Children of the Damned', which have all stood the test of time and are still as refreshing today as they were in 1982.
The playing is good for its time. Steve Harris is an absolute beast on the bass. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith are both competent guitarists, who've yet to utilize their full potential, especially when it comes to the duel harmonies they'd use on future releases, but they play more than enough to give all the songs the small embellishments required.
'The Number of the Beast' kicked off a long run of releases that would usher in the bands "golden era", and while it has its significance in Iron Maiden's history, I don't really consider it anything more than a decent album. It's good, but the best is most definitely yet to come.