I've recently joined the family over at Ripple Music. They've been nice enough to send me some music for review (as well as connect me with the JPT Scare Band, who sent me a shirt and their entire discography, way to go there guys!), and a new outlet to gain some readers. If you haven't had a chance to check them out, I strongly suggest you do so, they review pretty much anything, from old to new, and any range of rock/metal. It's a lot more varied then The Guide is, so if you have eclectic tastes like me, there is bound to be something interesting there for you to enjoy.
Thinning The Herd - Oceans Rise
As a group that describes themselves as a "soulful brew of grunge-fueled, blues-driven, stoner-infused rock," their self-description hits the nail on the head pretty solidly. The songs off of Thinning The Herd initially strike me as a mix of early-era Clutch and the alternative/post-grunge of Alice In Chains. Even though Oceans Rise drift away from that original analysis, it is this thought that continuously pops up throughout the album. Overall the album is tuned-down, making it all sound very dark and oppressive, probably more so then the lyrics would normally have come across as, but I have to think that this is the purpose. Songs that do pop-up ahead of the group, do so because of their more melodic tendencies. An underlying theme to the music (at least to me) is a semi-garage and/or noise rock fuzz and overexposure of the instruments and vocals. Songs like the title track, "Defiler," "Binge," and "My Wake," all have more in the whole 'musical' department, a little more groove, a little more tune. If you find yourself forlorn at the end of the 90s grunge/alt-metal era then definitely check out Thinning The Herd, you will not be disappointed.
Xerath - Xerath II
I had never heard of Xerath before, so their sophomore release is my personal debut to the group. They play a blending of progressive, NWOAHM, and symphonic/power metals, all wrapped in an extreme wrapper. As some of my readers would recognize, not my favorite collection of sounds. Other reviewers have equated the group to Meshuggah (I've seen it on more then one review), and I guess I could see that, but I've already let on that I hate Meshuggah (that original post is from 2 years ago, when I was in my writing infancy, so forgive the choppiness of it all), so that's not exactly a boon to their cause. However, I do like this group much more then Meshuggah, as they do have more to offer - hell I could make it through their album without wanting to stick a fork into my eye - and I think the addition of the symphonic/power elements are much more enjoyable. The vocals are ok throughout; mixing guttural screaming, black metal-esq wailing, and metalcore screeching, into something somewhat passable to my ears. I think their eclecticness of style and sound is what makes it possible for me to make it through it all. Hell, I actually enjoy some of these songs, but this isn't an album I'll ever really pick up again. And although I admit that openly, I have done my part and showed this act and album to a few of my friends who enjoy this style of music, it's the most I can do, and I do it proudly.
Lo-Pan - Salvador
Lo-Pan is back with another strong dosing of their brand of groove-oriented stoner rock. Salvador is their best album to date, taking all that was great from Sasquanaut a couple of years back, and adding in a jam-band sort of style, making it all the better. These songs have the fuzz of stoner, but also contain a continual moving guitar line, which flows through you relentlessly. I do find it odd, and had to double-check, that they have their "Intro" track in the number six slot. It's just a quick instrumental, so it doesn't hurt anything, or disrupt the flow of the album (it sounds very similar to the rest), just when you read the track listing it catches your eye. Most of the songs do feel very similar and it runs the risk of becoming repetitive with the very notable exception of "Struck Match." For this song the music takes a back seat and the vocals have the main stage. The fuzz is dimmed, the guitars are tuned back and the drums are minimal. This song really stands out from the rest of the album and is actually one of my favorites off of it.
Kylesa - Spiral Shadow
Wow, this is way more chill and laid back then I remember Kylesa being... Of course the only other time I ever listened to them was around four years ago when my friend let me borrow one of their CDs (I don't recall which one exactly). At this point I was only beginning to listen to the rougher side of things (sludge, NWOAHM, -core, etc) so I'm not surprised that I didn't like it. But now, I'm a bit older, a bit wiser, and if their earlier material is anything like Spiral Shadow, I may need to go through them all. Their newest is a nice blend of almost stoner jams with a douse of sludge and more then a few hits of post-metal. It's a cacoffiny of style and sound which is surprisingly accessible. I'm glad I gave them another chance.
Weedeater - Jason... The Dragon
Another sludge album, another short review of me saying how amazing the music and how shitty the vocals. I can't help it, Weedeater can produce some amazing stoner/doom grooves, but the unintelligible screaming will never do it for me. Some acts mix in the rough vocals, but have other sections of at least sort-of clean sounds, but Jason... The Dragon is all growl, which is not for me. The closest they get to something understandable is the twangy "Palm And Opium," where it sounds like they are trying to imitate robots by singing through some heavy distortion. That song is way different then the rest of the album, and works as an intermission of sorts. The album artwork is cool though, and that is always enjoyable.