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.