Friday, March 30, 2012


I am pleased to report that I have been taken on as a writer by The Inarguable, a fine site that covers much of the same material as Emotionally Voided with a much larger readership. In light of this move, I'm choosing to put Emotionally Voided on hold. Everything I'd be writing about here is easily something that could go toward The Inarguable and reach more people-it's a great opportunity for both myself in terms of exposure for my writing as well as the musicians whose work I write about. I will still post to EV-if there's ever something that The Inarguable doesn't publish, or if Jon already reviews something that I want to weigh in on as well (which will more than likely occur, as we have very similar taste) then I'll publish it here. I hope you'll continue to follow me over at my new home, and I'd like to thank everyone that read my work here and supported me. All the bands and labels I'm currently in touch with-I hope to continue to work with you and review your work, exposing it to a much broader audience. Thanks everyone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Stopgap release from the still-augmented Melvins, stepping back from the raw brilliance of "Sugar Daddy Live" and into the over-saturated studio megolomania that has defined the last few records of this particular lineup. The Big Business presence is still too strongly felt for my tastes; to a certain degree I feel their sensibilities curb Buzzo's aggressiveness and the resultant mix is something less than what either could achieve on their own. The vocals are far too immense here, burying the songs under an avalanche of triple tracked, echoed out harmonies and counterpoint. It's a chorus of monstrosity, a madrigal of malignancy, overwrought and ultimately too concerned with tunefulness. Buzzo has always warped and fucked with his vocals-it's been a key part of the Melvins sound-but it was never as insistent as it has been with the addition of Big Business. It's too poppy, and it's too much. What worked so well for Karp trips the Melvins up, continuing the band's identity crisis.
As for the music, it's pretty much what you'd expect. As Buzzo's gotten older he's become more technically flashy with his riffing; Crover's endless improvement as a drummer has allowed the Melvins to churn out song structures that twist and assault and make little sense when viewed through a prism of traditional timing. As always the double drumming is incredibly impressive; the sheer strength of the percussion on "The Bulls and The Bees" more than warrants a spin. The problem is it can't save what's essentially a fairly boring stretch of songs. There are moments of brilliance: "The War on Wisdom" devolves into some serious off-time metallized intensity at its end, and "We Are Doomed" hearkens back to the truly immersive and brutal sludge belligerence of the type found on "The Maggot"'s mighty "Amazon II," complete with an abundance of scathing guitar shrapnel and scorching feedback laid down over a crushing, hypnotic riff. But the rest of the album is dullsville. "Friends Before Larry" and "A Really Long Wait" are standard Melvins time fillers masquerading as experimentation; the opium den vibe achieved by "A Really Long Wait" is only marginally interesting, and certainly not done well enough to carry four minutes. Closer "National Hamster" cuts close to the rock and roll trope quick, with some heavily melodic riffwork that recalls Buzzo's shadow heroes Ted Nugent and KISS, but much like the worst of their work, the track is arena posturing by the numbers with only a fucked up over-effected vocal to redeem it. And it doesn't.
This EP is free courtesy the Melvins and Scion A/V, and I certainly applaud the generosity of both parties. It isn't a terrible record; it simply isn't a great one. I truly think the Melvins have been in their current incarnation for far too long. There was something magical about the core group of Buzzo and Dale, and each of their longer term bassists (Lorax, Mark D, and Kevin Rutmanis) grew the band's sound without the radical reinvention the current lineup has wrought. I'm very much looking forward to the new Melvins Lite record, essentially the classic pairing of Buzz and Dale with the addition of Trevor Dunn. The Melvins are still an exemplary band capable of colossal heaviness; perhaps the future will deliver on the promises of the past.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

CIRCLE "SERPENT" (Ektro Records)

Another new Circle live album, capturing a fairly intense set circa fall 2011. The recording quality is absolutely stunning, as though you were front and center sweating it out with the band and banging your head til it was fucking rubber and blood. For an hour's worth of performance Circle seemed intent on going all out here-this is probably one of the most aggressive sets I've heard in years without resorting to post-metal theatricality-and the sheer audial spectacle of "Serpent" is more than enough to recommend it, but this is more than just a new live record from a group whose discography is littered with them. This is a demonstration of the awesome communal power of dynamic energy, a transmutation of collectivism wrought into raw kinetics.
Warming up with "Lintu Joe," a meandering progressive number replete with interwoven discordant guitar damage and a seemingly open structure, the band barrels into "Vaellus," laying waste to any pretense of a "Telescope" or "Forest" type evening. There is no room for introspection this time-Circle came to fucking rock this shit under a tidal wave of New Wave Finnish Heavy Metal, and they go at it with aplomb and abandon. "Vaellus" is all crushing power chord majesty backed by a rainbow splurge of scorching keyboard, devolving into a tangle of harmonized leads that whip themselves back into fist pumping chorus modalities. It's eight minutes of pure metallized bliss, the scorching crunch of mutated thrash by way of mid-80's chart-hungry Judas Priest. "Rautatie" appears here again, commanding near 20 minutes of weirdo space enchantment and flippant schizo vocal posturing, a scat devolution of elongated histrionics that showcases the fucked-up side of what Circle can do when they want to be "exploratory." "Saturnus Reality" blasts out of "Rautatie"'s wind down, a furious blaze of ripping hardcore bordering on black metal, near three minutes of total upheaval with no disguise. It's awesome to here Circle embracing this sort of punk antagonism, yet another side to the multifaceted infinitity-a-hedron the band has honed itself into. "Laake" slows things down a bit, dispensing with the breakneck pace of "Saturnus Reality" in favor of some Ted Nugent style swamp riffing, a sleazy stomp across overly familiar rock and roll stomping grounds. It's overtly formulaic but not unenjoyable. "Blue King" and "New Fantasy" continue the regression, a wheezing descent into the band's final movement, an orchestration of adulation that more than merits this record's purchase.
The band's final track here is a ten minute run through of Brian Eno's seminal "Here Come the Warm Jets," an epic build up of gorgeous pop simplicity that rages itself into a dervish of breakneck power chord thrashtasms and operatic vocal skyscraping, a window onto the carved out ceiling of the universe. Circle stay incredibly true to Eno's original, amping up the rock fury of it and playing deep into the subtle menace of the track without going to far out into the metal realm with it. It feels like a natural extension of where Eno would have wanted to take the track, an excursion into the deep end of the rock/ambient pool, a pit of sludge gone off to die, a white star black hole born of grandeur and a joyous ache. Circle's delight in shredding this track is evident, and listening to it you wish it was 1000 minutes longer, and endless repetition of the massive final riff looped into oblivion.
While there's nothing here that reinvents the formula or pushes Circle's trademark sound any further, it's still an astonishing live document by one of the most interesting and unpredictable bands currently operating on the fringes of metal. You never know what Circle is going to do, and that's incredibly exciting. They're both mysterious and evocative, hidden but available. Their penchant for oblique and bruising meserization reaches an epic high on this set. This is a band that's capable of virtually anything, and superlative live records like "Serpent" stand as the irrefutable proof. The world knows no limits. We exist in an idea of expanse. Don't let conceptualized definitions restrict the possibilities available. Explore, explore, explore. You can stare into the sun, and the lights are fucking beautiful.

CONAN/SLOMATICS "SPLIT" (Burning World Records)

Slow motion syrup drip from across the sea by way of Conan and Slomatics, a crushing unity of minimalist rock throb harnessing the dwarfing power of distorted bass. Like a beamed in message from some transdimensional epoch since past, the warping haze of the sludge whipped up here casts a spell of goopy obliteration aimed directly at the quivering flesh. Skin trickles and sloughs, exhaustion creeps in, and the glaring cough of the sun drenches your eyes as you helplessly gaze across a dead, wretch desertscape. Make no mistake-the cover art here is fucking spectacular. But the music contained within more than fulfills the promise made by the accompanying inks and colors.
Conan open the set with three tracks of their meandering, quasi-hypnotic stripped down approach to the low end. Fresh off an EP on Aurora Borealis, here the band dials in on a narrow wavelength and stays true to the path defined by their previous work. Slow, lurching melodic basslines, jazz-inflected drums that skip, stutter, and lope drunkenly across your ears, and a scathing vocal that owes far more to Tom Araya's aesthetic than anything even approaching melody. Imagine Kyuss sans guitar, given over completely to the sanctifying tone of pulsing bass amplification, and you're getting there. Take all the overt heaviness out of that and you're left with nothing but the idea, and that's where Conan thrive. Opener "Retaliator" is an illustration of post-refinement by way of archetype reappropriation, the vestige of tunefulness bowled under an expanse of molten sludge and pounding, tribal drums. There's an aura of restraint in Conan's work that yields something akin to mesmerization, a willingness to allow the band more space than you'd give your average doom merchants or sludge slingers. There's a touch here, something delicate amidst the crumbling, driven fury. It's a different take on a familiar formula, and it propels these three songs into a higher realm of quality than you'd expect.
As good as Conan's slaying side is, Slomatics takes it further out and does it a tweak better. Of interest to me primarily for sharing space with the godlike Like A Kind of Matador on a split that regrettably never came to pass, the band traffics in a slow motion gruel that hearkens their Irish rock roots (the melodious harmonization of Thin Lizzy) and throws them against the belligerence of abrasive contemporaries like the Electric Wizard or Bunkur. Whatever room to breathe was afforded by Conan is completely vacuumed out by Slomatics, who erect a veritable wall of bruising distortion and thudding, aching drum terror. The vocals are an echoed out wreckage of void, a faraway cry of disgust and contempt, like the reverbations of a lunatic in the hollows of space. Slomatics favor a tongue in cheek classicism that isn't afraid to indulge in the approximation of solo guitar heroism or the grandiosity of compositional excess (again ala Thin Lizzy); somehow they're able to transform those tropes into something that sounds like it belongs in the annals of doom without taking itself so horribly serious. This isn;t suicide music or a rite of personal mourning; this is simple science fiction battle metal, the kind of call to arms that would fling you onto the nearest giant snail with halberd in hand. It's pretty fucking phenomenal.
Burning World has put together a fairly exceptional piece of work. These two bands go together, each one a perfect complement for the other. This isn't cookie-cutter musical matchmaking like so many black metal CDr atrocities; this is a well-thought out and conceived commission of work from two outer-genre doom metal revisionists. While there's enough slaughtering heaviosity here to feed a galleon of misanthropic gluttons for days, there's also a complexity, despite the instrumental minimalism, that appeals to those looking for a more intellectual approach to glacial movements. Like tar sliming down a mountainside, this shit will leave you charred and melted away. Lava flow dread and apocalyptic sludge prophesy masked as mere monochromaticism. Bathe in the lake of lack.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Easily the most purely rock-oriented effort from Pharaoh Overlord since 2004's "The Battle of the Axehammer" as well as the most narrowly defined, "Horn" captures the band at a 2010 gig in Finland totally laying waste to any idea of complexity or intricacy in psychedelic music. Turning in four behemoth tracks, the band endlessly recycles one two- chord riff, starting off with a cover of the Spacemen 3's seminal "Revolution" and devolving into the chaotic reductionism of "Sky." This is an aggressive set by Pharaoh Overlord's standard, veering dangerously close into Circle's NWOFHM territory with the emphasis on vocals and structure-the riffs become so polluted with repetition and layered guitar the songs seem completely alive and charged, leaping off stage with throat-slashing fervor and a sexualized antagonism not oft heard in the usually narcoleptic drone-dirger's marathons.
Hypnotism has always been at the heart of Pharaoh Overlord's sound; the nod-off and gentle drift has been a patent part of their formula since the group's inception. The band has been less prone to meandering abstractionism than any of founder Jussi Lehtisalo's various side projects: barring the classic rock recidivism of "Out of Darkness" and the skeletal clatter-psych of "Siluurikaudella," Pharaoh Overlord have honed in on one single idea and hammered it into the ground until blunt. That bludgeoning, riff-oriented approach has endeared the band to the narcoleptic-minded astral explorers that actively seek out the transformative in music; for everyone else it's the bloated death stomp of fetid dinosaur rock, lacking in imagination and void of ideas. You're either tuned in to this and it fucking destroys you or it's the most boring shit you've ever heard in your life. For me Pharaoh Overlord are the guidebook for ascension, a willful glorification of the power of simplicity and vision to achieve a transdimensionality. "Horn" can open a door if you let it; the cosmic goop free-floating past is nothing less than the deteriorated residue of millions of minds blown and shredded away into one great all-encompassing cross-planetary stream of consciousness, a dip into the pool of life, the warm placid breath of creation slipping past your tongue and deep into your inner reaches. There is no gaudy excess or superfluous posturing, only the holy power of the one true riff, stripped to its essential value and given up in its purest form. This is an offering and a communication, a tear in the universe pulsing with an electric and overblown aura.
That this ritual was expressed on stage, in front of thousands, speaks to the band's considerable power. The majority of the material here, as always, was rooted in improvisation, the startling ability to allow the music to dictate its own path an to blindly follow wherever that presence may lead. Pharaoh Overlord (and the entire Circle camp, for that matter) have never shied away from this complication; indeed, they've openly embraced it as a means to an end, the path of obliteration and reductionism as revealed by free-form radical composition born of the moment and of the mind. "Horn" is birthed via the primal magma of rock and roll, obstinate in its infantile fury and frightening in its utter shallowness. Everything reduced to its obvious distillation. Everything rendered to its most fiery form, a great conflagration of ideological tropes and blood-spitting showmanship. Heads down, amps cranked. There is only this one truth now. There is only this one idea. You don't need anything else.
You shouldn't have ever wanted anything else.
"Horn" is going to change anyone's mind. This is a record for the faithful, not a missionary expedition into the great rock unknown. For those who were left somewhat perplexed by the recent deviations from formula, this record is a serious return to form with a renewed focus on the blatant, a fervent belief in the grandiose pomposity of rock posturing. The confident struts of Gene Simmons cross-dissolved into a stage full of fake blood dried up and crusted over, the moment and the reality. The cross-pollution of of pointless ideology and neck-shaking headbanging riffology. Grind away, recede. Grind away, recede. Repeat ad nauseam. Allow the self to collapse, dissolve. Drift into the nothing. Feel the ethereality. Forty minutes to erase your brain. The wax as law. The candles are lit. The ritual will commence.
Can you hear the amplifiers humming?


Gooped-up mess of post trance psychedelic warble from Campbell Kneale, building on the direction showcased on "I Hate Even Numbers." Whereas that record suffered from something of an identity crisis, with Kneale floundering to find the common ground (mostly unsuccessfully) between Aphex Twin and Astral Social Club, here he hits it exactly right, throwing elements of deep jungle dubstep into a blender with the raucous, wishing guitar destruction of My Bloody Valentine. The end result is a sort of bastardized "Graceland," a tripped out mindfuck that draws equally from burbling, spasmodic rainbow noise and Afrocentric rhythm. Similar to William Bennet's Cut Hands project but far less sinister, Kneale basks himself in the jubilation of uninhibited physical expression and cranks its into chainsaw grating grind plasma.
Across the space of 32 minutes, Kneale manipulates and thoroughly destroys an array of detritus, warping it beyond and recognition. "Queasy" is the perfect word-the whole affair sloshes and drips like a hurl of vomit off the deck of an ocean liner. The magnificence is staggering, the majesty drunken. Everything stumbles, trips, and falls flat on its face, the blood oozing onto the deck in a prism of broken hues and shivering tendrils of technicolor. Slices of the sky get shorn into pinwheels of evisceration, spinning and whirring in an approximation of clockwork, except every time is wrong, every second miscalculated. This is horror and distance in the worst possible way, obfuscation made possible by violent disorientation. It's John Carpenter by way of Merzbow, the complete nullification found in the very center of the color wheel. Kneale absolutely shreds his guitar, sending it into the great nocturnal beyond where every sound gets disassembled and thrown back as a fraction of its original sonic signature. The wall of torment becomes a disease of sound, a towering pile of sickness and filth rising to the surface above a hopeless, stuttering loop of empty percussion. Kneale's textures glimmer as diamonds in the dirty ocean, lights buried in mountains of shit, puke and spectacle fused into a glitterati of mammoth proportion. The immediacy of "Limbless Soldiers Flight" is a like an enchantment, a screaming wizard assault on the senses. The ripping buzz of discordance married to the "smash your face against a wall" aestheticism of grindcore. If Andrew W.K. were less of a classicist, he'd make this sort of record.
Kneale revels in the extreme. His desire for beauty pushes Our Love Will Destroy The World's sound far into the red zone of abstraction, each composition a startling futuristic regression compared to its predecessor. This is a project that just gets better as Kneale slowly but confidently sheds the mantle of Birchville Cat Motel. While the correlations will always be apparent to longtime followers, the sheer joy on display here should be more than enough to cement Kneale's stature as one of this century's most creative sonic architects. There is nothing here if not the joy of creation, a mad dance in the heart of conception running pace alongside the fervency of feverish vision. Kneale wants to dismantle the world and build it up in his own image, a grinning Cheshire cat winking at the abstraction of the sun. The refraction of vomit, the collapse of dimensionality, the ascendency of the astral. The ether is alive and throbbing, the walls are quavering and separating from themselves. The only thing left to do is dance.


The eternity of the bleak rendered into limbo hymnals courtesy Kevin Drumm, taking his recent exploration of minimalism to a new extreme with this two cassette set. Comprised of 4 lengthy pieces adding up to one whole, "Dying Air" utilizes absolutely no electronics in its evocation of the ethereal, sounding something like a rotted out haunted house about to collapse upon itself in a heap of dust and decay. This is an open, volatile recording, full of menace and imbued with a sense of lurking terror. Here Drumm is truly working with sound-i'm hard-pressed to pick out anything even resembling an instrument-and his success in creating such a darkened, nocturnal ambience with a few echoes and clangs is mesmerizing. The idea of "field recordings" takes on an entire new context as Drumm takes and shapes severely disparate elements into a work that is at once pictorial and wholly indescribable. The stench of emptiness, the loneliness of engulfing abandonment. Both surface here, scarring and shredding as they worm their way into your dreams.
"Dying Air" is a mirage, willing itself into being on the strength of pure expectation. Existing as a washed out haze, the four parts conjoin into a veritable cloud of unknowing sans any metaphysical context. It's barely real, but its presence is magnificent and foreboding, threatening the listener with the implication of violence and the blackened terror of the unseen. The spaces between the sounds become as hollowed out and cut away as the sounds themselves, audial memories returned to the corporeal realm to extend their spectral hands amongst the living. Their touch is chill and enervating, the cumulative effect of Drumm's composition being an intense and fractured anxiety that crawls across the skin like a pallor, blubbery and congealed. This is truly dead air, wasted and lost, stumbling through the nether until its final, choking dissipation. There are no mourners, and there are no real memories. All that remains is a whisper, a flicker in the eternal night, a wish against the actual. This is the revenant of harm inflicted, of atrocity perceived. You have been made a participant, a spectator, willingly or unwillingly.
Drumm has carved out a face of anguish with this set; the darkness inherent in all of his work reaches a near suffocating level here. The back-end processing of his music usually allows for a certain distance; even wrapped up in the death-throes of "Sheer Hellish Miasma" there's an idea of respite, because it's known this was a manufactured aura. It must end. With "Dying Air," Drumm grants no such assurance. These are the banal, haunted sounds of existence, the creaks and groans of life deteriorating all around us. These minute screams are here, buried, scraping their way to the surface. The end is bubbling up like rancid fish, flesh flayed and hanging off the carcass as so much dripping, gummy viscera. The gate is open; the way is known. These are the echoes of finality.