Chris Van Etten's Forum Replies

This isn’t my favorite Killing Joke LP (that would be Fire Dances) but it still hovers pretty close to the top of the list.  I downloaded this off Soulseek (remember that thing?) about a year after it came out. I dragged my feet a little because I remember thinking their previous LP “Democracy” wasn’t that great. I also missed my chance to see them live on the tour for this album because I had recently seen a few too many disappointing “vintage” acts. 

Both were big mistakes. 

I think the fact the band took such a long hiatus before recording their second S/T LP helped with the songwriting. None of the songs are monotonous, which is not something I can say for most of their records. There is also a fair variety of moods between the songs, from the melancholic “You’ll Never Get to Me” (which I can understand why Daniel isn’t too crazy about, but I like it a lot) to the just plain ugly “The House that Pain Built.” I feel like Jaz Coleman is really pushing himself on this record, like the machine-gun spieling on “Implant” or the quiet snarling on “Total Invasion.”  Switching gears, the main guitar riff on “Total Invasion” is something I’ve tried to rip-off on multiple occasions, but to no avail. I also have to hand it to Dave Grohl, he probably is the best drummer they ever had (which is saying something). I read that he recorded the drum tracks along to everything else, which was pre-recorded. This is  backwards from how recording usually works, and may have allowed for more room for expression. Overall, given it’s anthemic nature, I think this might be their most “fun” album.

It’s funny, while the later Killing Joke albums are more metal than the records they did in the late 1980’s (and I think when the moment was that they crossed the metal threshold is debatable), this is almost entirely due to production. Geordie’s guitar playing, Jaz’s vocals, and the songwriting styles haven’t really changed that much, in my opinion. I finally saw KJ live a couple of years ago, and the songs from this album mixed perfectly with their more post-punk material from the 80s.

To comment on what genre this fits in: I think this is close enough to classic-era Ministry to be considered I Industrial Metal. That being said, I also feel like Industrial Metal is a sub-genre of Alternative Metal to begin with. This was definitely the case in the early to mid 90s (although the advent of Neue Deutsche Harte, as well as bands like Napalm Death and Red Harvest incorporating industrial elements made the categorization more complicated). Just my opinion, anyway. Regardless, Killing Joke always sound like Killing Joke, no matter what phase they’re in.


So the first Godflesh record... definitely a good one, but considering the heights the would reach a few years later,  not one of their best. At this point Broadrick and Green were clearly onto something innovative, but they were still finding their sound. I don’t think they had quite figured out how to work within the confines and limitations of using a drum machine. Also , the production isn’t quite as heavy as on subsequent records (which I’m sure had to do with time/financial constraints and inexperience). The result is interesting though: it may not be super heavy (relatively speaking), but it’s still pretty brutal and abrasive, along the lines of Big Black, or maybe even Unsane (especially on “Veins”). I would love to hear how “Godhead” would have sounded if it was recorded during the Streetcleaner sessions. The classic Godflesh bass and guitar tones are already present, but the vocals aren’t there yet. While I agree with Daniel that the vocals were never the focal point, one thing I love about the later releases is how well Broadrick works within his vocal  limitations  (same as with the drum programming). On the other hand, I don’t think he ever sang a song the way he does on “Ice Nerveshatter” again. I can’t put my finger on it, but his vocal approach on this song is more loose and human than I’m used to hearing from him. I personally think Godflesh really hit their stride with Slavestate and the rest of their 90’s output (Us and Them maybe being a slight step down). Regardless, this is still essential for any GF fan, and the songs are all at least cool, if not great (not sure if I care as much for the bonus tracks, but I’m kind of a purist/snob so I’m mainly talking about the core six). To end on a high note, the main riff to “Spinebender” is fucking sick. Weird, emotive and with tons of personality. I can definitely get lost in that one. 3.5/5

I like this. First off, it’s nice hearing something new I can get into. And by new, I don’t just mean a new record, but one that’s by a band that’s been around less than 10 years. I already knew of Uniform, but I wouldn’t have expected them to sound like this based on the fact that the record is on Sacred Bones, which has put out some stuff that I like (Zola Jesus, John Carpenter), but none of what I’ve heard is remotely metal.  Daniel you mentioned the production, and I agree that it’s cold and bleak but I think there’s actually some strong distinction in the instruments. The bass tone is especially  impressive, normally when the distortion is that gravelly it disappears in the mix, but not here (although I’m not sure if it’s a bass guitar or an octave effect-either way I like it). The faster moments are really appealing when they come in, and I’m glad they’re not afraid to bust into pure thrash. I think that’s my main complaint: while Uniform’s strength is clearly in the sludge, I do think they could have stood to have just a few more faster moments, just to neutralize the few that drag.  While the Godflesh influence is undeniable, this is clearly a record of its time. I think my favorite songs are the title track and “I Am the Cancer,” just because of all the ground it covers stylistically. After I listened to this record, I listened to it again immediately. 8 songs in 35 minutes is the perfect length IMO. I really regret  missing them live when they’ve come through, hopefully I didn’t totally miss my chances. Fun fact: I was in an Art-Punk band called Uniform a few years ago, and the NY Uniform contacted them (before I was in the band) to make sure it was cool that they used the same name. 4/5

I’ve been pretty into this one lately. 1981’s “Deceit” by British post-punk/experimental group This Heat. Not metal, but very dark, weird and even heavy at points. Sort of a Kraut rock vibe too. I’m not a sucker for stuff like this, but I think this record sticks out as being more interesting and having a lot of cool hooks. “A New Type of Water” is my favorite song I’ve heard lately. If you’re into early Savage Republic, you’ll dig this.

First and foremost, I like this better than “City,” though I still don’t think I’m a SYL convert yet. I agree with saxystephens on a few things. It is a bit more straightforward than what Townsend is capable of, but that’s kind of what I like about it.  I like that “Skesis” keeps the momentum going long enough so that you can sink into the drums (which are awesome, by the way). I also agree that the album is pretty front heavy (NOTE: Rereading, I realize Saxy said “back” heavy, so maybe we’re not in sync?). The first three tracks rip, and then things kind of calm down. Like I mentioned when we talking about “City,” I have a lot of trouble with Townsend’s vocals and lyrics. The lyrics are a bit better (I only cringe a few times while listening to this), but the vocals... I don’t know. Obviously he’s really good in the technical sense, and he is all over the place, which is cool. I guess it’s his  “straight” voice I have a problem with, with the hoarse screams not being a problem. I also don’t know how I feel about the Dio-esque vox on “Love?” He pulls them off pretty well, but I’m not sure if I like them in the context. A few more complaints: I don’t care for  the palette-cleanser “Two Weeks,” and the bass drops are over-used. This ties in to the album being front heavy: the drops are cool on the first few songs, but get old after that. 

So now that I have all the negative stuff out of the way, there’s a lot to like about “Alien” too. The production is thicker/heavier than on “City.”  Like I said, the first three songs do kick ass, and I appreciate how unrelenting they are. If the rest of the album isn’t as consistent, there’s  still a lot of elements I like. The high-end (female?) cheering vocals on “Possessions” are really cool. “Thalamus” is a good closer (I’m not counting “Info Dump”), going from a super-heavy Godflesh-like waltz to a power blast and then into slightly more melancholy territory. Overall, this record (instrumentally speaking) reminds me of the more recent Napalm Death material, which I consider a good thing (although chronologically, it would make sense if SYL influenced them). I like some of the odd percussion on some of the tracks too, whatever it is that sounds like bottles. It keeps things weird, even if the song approach is relatively straightforward. I normally score 1 to 5, but on this I’m feeling 5.75/10. If it was just the first 3 tracks plus “Possesions,” it would be more like 7.5. Maybe someday I’ll be a fan, but I’m not quite there yet.

October 28, 2020 01:55 AM

I like this record a lot. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say I Iike it better than the material of the group members’ other bands. I think you can generally split Stoner Metal into two sub-categories: the first would include the super-heavy, almost Doom bands like Sleep and Electric Wizard, and the second would be more “rock” oriented stuff like Down or Orange Goblin (I’d also throw Kyuss in there). The more I delve into the latter category, the more I think Down nailed it better than anybody else on this LP, the music’s just more interesting and Phil’s vox take it to another level. 4/5

For this month, how about:

Havoc Unit  - “Klan Korps -Volkssturm & Erregung” (or something else from “h.IV+“)

1000 Homo DJs - “Better Ways” (love this track, but I’ll let you be the judge if it’s Industrial Metal or just Industrial)

Godflesh - “Circle of Shit” (if there’s gonna be an obligatory GF track, I vote  this for November)


Excuse the quote format, technical difficulties on my end:

Daniel - it’s funny that you mention the length of this, because before reading your post I was thinking about how, despite being presented as an EP, I think this qualifies as a full album because it has 8 tracks and breaks the half-hour mark. Yes the instrumentals are super quick, but the same could be said of “Master of Reality”.  Also, I find the most common complaint I have about records that are good but not great is that they have too many tracks. If you have 8 rippers, why tack on a few duds just for the sake of reaching a more “appropriate “ length? Filler is filler, and Trent Reznor may not have had any more (good) material. I think the length of “Broken” is perfect. But on to the record itself. I don’t think I’ve listened to this in its entirety since 1993. At the time, I was kind of biased against this band and thought Ministry/Al Jourgensen/Wax Trax was the real deal while NIN were sort of the watered down equivalent for the masses. In retrospect, NIN were more accessible, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good, and “Broken” holds up really damn well for being almost 30 years old. “Wish” really is a fucking classic, absolutely essential in the history of rock music. “Last” is a perfect follow up track, a plodding foil to the former’s speed. “Help Me I Am In Hell” doesn’t quite live up to it’s title, but it’s cool anyway. Going back to the original point about length, the songs are all pretty dense and really kind of showcase all the tricks of the trade in this end of the Industrial spectrum. The quality level dips a little after “Happiness In Slavery” (I love the distorted bass on that one btw), but the remaining tracks are still good, there’s nothing on here I don’t like. Maybe I’ll up the score later, but right now I’m at 4/5.

Quoted Chris Van Etten

Cool, will do! I’ll check out that Boris LP too.

Gonna drop a couple of suggestions, even though I’m too late for September maybe these will work for October: “Age of Greed” by Killing Joke and “Verklempt” by Foetus. The KJ track is off of Exremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions as well as the Laugh? I Nearly Bought One! compilation. I think Extremities is the first record they did which could reasonably be called metal. Most of the Foetus material is NOT metal, but this particular track (and the GASH LP it comes from) comes close enough, I like it anyway. 

So I was trying to think of something I could bring to the table that wasn't already well recognized, and I remembered DATACLAST from New Jersey. They were a two-piece, all electronics/no guitars, and I'm pretty sure they got their name from the Assuck song. I first heard them on the Short, Fast and Loud vol. 1 comp (based on the zine of the same name) that came out in 2001. I wanted to get more by them, but I don't think they had anything of their own available. Ultimately, they only released a split CD with The Earwigs and a split 7" ep with Pantalones Abajo Marinero, as  well as a few comp appearances.  One of these comps - "The Day the Machines Took Over the World" is on Spotify and also features Agoraphobic Nosebleed and a bunch of other drum machine powered acts - definitely worth checking out.  Now, technically this is grindcore, but since it's 100% electronic I think it fits in the Sphere as well as the Horde.  I think this band could have done a cool LP if they had stuck it out a little longer. The link below is for their side of the split 7." I think I might like their tracks from the Earwigs split a little better, but I could only find links to individual tracks, and this is more comprehensive. However, if you like this you'll probably dig the other stuff as well.

Interesting listen. So looking at this the way you would a conventional record, you have the first 12 tracks which make up the songs, and afterwards you have remixes and instrumental versions. I like this because it reminds me of the Wax Trax! Maxi-Singles which would consist of as many remixes as actual songs. I also really like how the songs are almost all between 2 and 3 minutes, so you’ll have a verse and a chorus, but you’ll only hear them once. I assume the reason for this has to do with fitting in with the video game structure, but it actually makes for a really cool song format. I definitely like some of the tracks more than others, but none of them really get old because they go by too fast. They’re not 30 second grind blasts either though, so they fit in a weird space  that reminds me of punk, but only in terms of the length. So is it metal? I think so, at least for the most part. Although one of my favorite tracks is “A Stranger I Remain,” which is really just a fast pop song (or segment of one). There is a lot of killer shredding (which I assume is done by Logan Mader) especially on “The Stains of Time.” All the tracks are pretty fast, except for the moodier closer “The War Still Rages Within,” which clocks in at 5:00, easily the longest track, and probably one of my faves as well. Now we get to the downsides. There are several vocalists, and some appeal to me, others don’t. I may be losing some metal points for saying this, but John Bush from Armored Saint’s vocal track is probably my LEAST favorite. And the Kit Walters vocals on “A Soul Can’t Be Cut” kind of suck (he’s okay on “The Stains of Time” though). The main thing that I think keeps me from going all in on this release though, is that there’s just too much going on in all of the tracks. Like too many clean/orchestral synths over what would otherwise be some cool super-fast industrial. You would call it overproduction in most cases, but I understand that being a video game soundtrack kind of calls for a lot of polish. I think I enjoyed the more stripped down instrumental versions in the second half better, where it sounded like a roided out John Carpenter soundtrack. Still, I think this overall pretty fun. 3/5

Hey hey, been a little off the grid lately. I’ll drop in this weekend when I have a bit more time, I have a few things in mind...

Late to the party (as usual) but I like this idea.  Sometimes you just want delve into a micro-niche, because nothing else really works (at the time). For example, I like Candlemass, but I’m a much bigger fan of St. Vitus/Pagan Alter/Paul Chain Violet Theater and am more interested in hearing bands that sound like those. So yeah, I’m all for sub genres even within something like Trad Doom. Perhaps Candlemass would be Epic Trad Doom while the others would be Classic Trad Doom? Whatever, just as long as the distinction is made. A few suggestions for the Sphere: There is Neue Deutsche Harte of course,  but there are also specific strains based on Godflesh/Earache on one end and Ministry/WaxTrax on the other (I’m pretty sure this has been pointed out already). These two strains have specific sounds, but I’m not sure what the titles would be offhand. To round things out for that clan, I guess you could just say “modern” for stuff like Author and Punisher.

Okay, so over the weekend I checked out three NDH records from 2004: Eisbrecher's S/T debut, Tanzwut's S/T live Double (Triple?) LP, and Oomph!'s "Wahreit oder Pflicht." I didn't do a deep dive into any of them, just one or two solid listens. Starting with the Oomph! LP: I picked this particular record because it's (apparently) their most popular, I think largely due to the single "Augen auf!" One thing I found surprising is, if it was taken out of context, the record would qualify way more as an Alternative Metal record than an Industrial one. I suppose the differences between the two genres can be slight. There are keyboards, but they're pretty minimal, and work more in the overdub fashion than as a part of the musical body. The overall sound is pretty organic, and while the performance is super tight, it's not exactly mechanical. The drummer sounds human and the vocals have soul. It's not my cup of tea, but I couldn't find anything bad about it either, so it's probably worth checking out if you're into the System of a Down/Deftones end of the spectrum. I do think "Augen auf!" is a pretty good song.  2.5/5  On to the Eisbrecher LP: this one is a little more up my alley. Much heavier on the electronics and jocking monotone vocals. It's also really dancey and has some female soul-singer backing vox, so it reminds me of KMFDM, although I think I like this a little better. The guitars are definitely along those lines as well, but the synths are a little more brutal. Before I decided to have all the records I reviewed be from 2004, I sampled a few of their other albums. I tried 2015's "Schock" because it had the coolest cover (isn't that the classic way to pick something anyway?) and listened to a few songs but decided it was too bland, like third-rate Rammstein. I sampled a track each on a few others, and got the best results with this one. The problem with "Eisbrecher" though, is that nothing really sticks out. It checks plenty of the boxes for me (well chosen synths, danceable but not wimpy, etc.) but after giving it a couple of listens, I'm hard pressed to recall any of the riffs, hooks or vocals parts. In other words, it's not memorable. I guess it gets the job done though, so I'll (generously) give it a 3/5. Lastly we have the Tanzwut live extravaganza. I thought I should have one more record/band to report on, so I picked this one kind of randomly (using the country/year/genre filter on this very site), and it's definitely my favorite of the three. This is also the closest to what I was expecting, sounding the most like Rammstein.  Technically they fall into the Folk Metal category since they use bagpipes, but to my ears this is pure Industrial. Sure the bagpipes are there, but listening to this without any frame of reference, they could easily been synths utilizing a bagpipe sound. More importantly, the melodies on the bagpipes are, for the most part, pretty cool. Tanzwut are also way more metal than Eisbrcher, with much  heavier and more prominant guitars. The guitars for Oomph! were pretty heavy as well I guess, but these are executed over the kind of marching rythms that I was hoping for when I delved into this stuff. While live reords are usually a turn off, I think it benefits Tanzwut by giving it a fuller sound than may be on their studio work (just a guess, I haven't tried those records out yet). I had to listen to this in segments (it's almost 2 hours long) but I found myself more than once listening to just one more song before taking a break, which is a good sign. Be warned, it is kind of poppy too, or maybe it just seems that way because of the cheers and the singer's banter (I don't think I would enjoy it as much if I understood German). 3.5/5 

Overall, I'd be lying if I said I was blown away by any of this. When I'm in the mood for something like Rammstein...I'll probably still just listen to Rammstein.  Oomph! aren't really my thing, and Eisbrecher I could take or leave. While not amazing, I did like the Tazwut album enough to probably go back to again at some point ,and I'll probably check out some of their studio stuff too. At some point I'll try out more NDH but I think I'm satisfied for now. 

Cool, yeah will do.

I don’t know much about the Neue Duetsche Harte subgenre, so I don’t have anything to say about how this record relates to that, but “Reise, Reise” is my favorite of the first four Rammstein albums. I honestly don’t like “Herzeleid“ very much, “Sehnsucht” is good but I wish it was heavier, and “Mutter” has some great moments but some cringe points as well. “Reise, Reise” is much more consistent and heavier than any of those. I can see how some might consider this record kind of monotonous, but I feel like they simply got their sound down and locked with it. I also like the keyboard sounds on this one across the board, whereas the wrong sound can kill an otherwise good song (and this definitely happens on their previous records). I pretty much get everything I want out of Rammstein here. I even like the acoustic guitars on “Los” and “Ohne Dich.” “Mein Teil” is the best though, that song is pure fucking POWER. I also really dig the female vox on “Moskau.” I don’t think I’ve seen anyone mention “Amerika” yet, which I guess is conceptually kind of cheesy but is undeniably catchy. On first listen I was leaning on giving this a 3/5 (good but not exceptional) but the more I listen to it, the more I like it so I think it deserves at least a 4/5 . 

First of all, I’m glad you picked this because it gave me an excuse to check out something by Devin Townsend, whose work I’m not really familiar with but I’m also aware is crucial in some circles.  To be honest, it’s not really my cup of tea. Yes, the drums are superhuman. I think Gene Hogan could take on an AI controlled high-end drum machine and win. To cut to the chase, I think my main problem is with the lyrics. Usually lyrics are the LAST thing I care about (especially if they’re not in English) . But Townsend’s lyrics sound like they’re coming from a teenage kid who’s trying to sound sooooo tough. I just have trouble taking it seriously. Credit where credit is due though, the guy has a great range and those vox can’t be easy on the throat. And there are moments on the record that have me saying “ okay, that’s cool,” but those will be followed by something I don’t like. “Home Nucleonics” is my fave track for sure, the lyrics don’t get cringy on that one and I find all the riffs appealing. I may not be the best guy to review this though. I’m kind of old school in my tastes and (again to give credit where credit is due) I feel like this record helped spearhead a more modern sound.


Daniel - Now that I think about it , I’m not 100% sure I’ve actually listened to this from start to finish! I HAVE with the Sciences (I know some people don’t like it, but I think it’s good), I’ve seen them, and obviously I’ve heard Dragonaut zillion times, but Holy Mountain from start to finish? Shit. Okay, now that I’ve called myself out as a poseur, this will be the next record I do a review of (Acrimony will have to wait).

You assumed correctly! I’m a big fan of the classic three Ministry LPs (Land of Rape and Honey, Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, and this).  Since we’re on the topic of recommendations, anyone who digs this record should check out the Jesus Built My Hotrod 12”.  The 8-minute version of Jesus is uniquely epic, and makes listening to the shorter LP version a bit frustrating in comparison. The original version of TVII is on here as well, and it’s a lot more raw. I LOVE the drums on this fucker.

This is my first experience with ...And Oceans and I like most of what I hear. Actually, my immediate reaction wasn't good: I found the main part of the opening track to be pretty awful, and I wondered if I'd be able to sit through the whole thing. Once I got past that track, the second one was more listenable, the third track won me over, and the next four tracks kept me hooked.  So from what I gather ...And Oceans added synth/industrial stylings on  this record that they never utilized before.  Were they successful? Short answer yes, long answer yes but they should have trimmed some of the fat. Going back to that first track that I couldn't into ("Intelligence is Sexy"), I just think they tried too hard to do an expository number that shoved in your face that they were mixing synth with brutal metal. I find it listenable now, but I still think it's kind of hack. But nevermind that and the second track (which is okay), because the record kicks ass from there on. "Tears Have No Name," begins with a synth part and then has the metal play along with it, rather than having synth layered on top of a metal riff. They take both approaches on the album, but I think I prefer the former. Make no mistake, this is metal, as opposed to more aggro industrial, but having the synth backbone gives the parts a lot of character and flavor. There are parts where the synth is more subtle, and those parts are pretty good too, but they can can handle metal just fine without it. "Esprit De Corps" only has about four seconds of synth before going raging thrash, but the track kills so who cares. My guess is it was written before they changed styles I also want to point out that recording and mix are crystal clear, which adds to the experience a lot. I prefer my Black Metal a bit more on the dirty side, but I'm glad they went all out with the mix, having the synth loud, clear and all over the place in the stereo spectrum. And despite what I just said, the main Black Metal riff on "Odious And Devious" works on a different level here than it would on a trad BM record, because of what it's contrasted with. I'm anxious to delve their next release, because while I like "A.M. God," it is clear they were new to blending they styles together (although usually pretty damn well),  and I'm curious to see how they advance in that department. One last thing, I don't think the last track - the EDM (I think) "New Model World" - is pointless, especially since the preceding track works so well as a closer.   

Hey Ben, how about Damad? Pre-Kylesa, and I think “Rise and Fall” would be a good choice if the Sludge challenge happens.