Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - September 2019


Written by: RaduP, musclassia, nikarg
Published: 17.10.2019


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - September 2019
Metal Storm's outlet for nonmetal album reviews

The place where we'll talk about music without growls or blast beats
unless they still have those but still aren't metal


We here at Metal Storm pride ourselves on our thousands of metal reviews and interviews and article; metal is our collective soul and passion, which is why we bother with this junk. That being said, we'd be lying if we stuck to our trve-kvlt guns and claimed that metal is the only thing we ever listen to. Whether we want to admit it or not, we do check out some other stuff from time to time; some of us are more poptimistic than others, but there's a whole world out there aside from Satan-worshiping black metal and dragon-slaying power metal. We do already feature some nonmetal artists on our website and have a few reviews to back them up, but we prefer to limit that aspect of the site to those artists who have been a strong influence on the metal scene or who are in some way connected to it. This article series is the place for those artists who don't matter to metal in the slightest but still warrant some conversation - after all, good music, is good music, and we all know metal isn't the only thing on this planet for any of us.

Down below, you might find some obscure Bandcamp bedroom projects or some Billboard-topping superstar; as long as it ain't metal and the album itself isn't a best-of compilation, it fits. Obviously, we're certain that not everything will be for everybody (you guys can be viciously territorial even when metal is the only thing on the menu, and we're all supposed to like the same things), but we do hope you find at least one thing that you can enjoy, instead of just pointing and screaming in horror "Not metal!" as if that would be an insult.

Here are our previous features:

August 2019
July 2019
June 2019

And now to the music...








Mike Patton & Jean-Claude Vannier - Corpse Flower
[Chamber Pop / Progressive Pop]

If there is something Mike Patton has proved throughout his musical career, it is his persistent refusal to be put in a box and become stale. Making music for him is synonymous to experimenting. How else would you explain this man fronting names such as Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, Peeping Tom, Fantômas, and Dead Cross? His latest venture teamed him up with French composer Jean-Claude Vannier, best known for his work with Serge Gainsbourg.

The music is actually Serge Gainsbourg and Tom Waits coming together in a laid back, lounge pop album with jazzy and classical twists and turns, that showcases a Patton sounding sexy as fuck no matter what he sings about. Whether it's passages from Oscar Wilde's Ballad Of Reading Gaol ("Ballade C.3.3"), a song about a gun ("Browning"), or the experience of being totally plastered ("When I drink too much I shit my pants" he sings in "Pink And Bleue"), Patton makes it so that Corpse Flower is what I want to listen to when wining and dining my woman. The fragmented and atonal "Hungry Ghost" with the divine operatic vocals of Anne Germain, the romantic "Insolubles", and the more familiar-sounding "On Top Of The World" - which wouldn't feel out of place in FNM's Angeldust or King For A Day... - are immediate love affairs but, frankly, the whole album is a must listen.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by nikarg

Jenny Hval - The Practice Of Love
[Avant-Garde Pop / Synthpop]

Jenny Hval appears to be quite the prolific artist; The Practice Of Love is her seventh record released this decade. It is, however, my first introduction to her, and it makes for quite the strong introduction. The Practice Of Love opens with "Lions", a somewhat trance-y effort with a simple, persistent drumbeat and oscillating synths underlaying the soft, ethereal clean vocals of Hval, as well as spoken word narration. This description would be apt for several other tracks on the record; whilst new elements such as the saxophone on "High Alice" come and go, the core sound is relatively stable for the most part. This is no bad thing, as it makes for soothing, satisfying music. From reading online, it wold appear the trance elements are a new development for Jenny Hval, but they feel natural here, adding a grounding to the more avant-garde side of the sound.

The spoken word aspect of The Practice Of Love is quite prominent, most notably on the title track, a 3-minute musing on love and childfree lifestyles. Personally, I've never been a huge fan of spoken word in music, but it feels relatively natural on this album. In contrast, the sung vocal arrangements can occasionally not quite click for me, for example on "Accident", where a succession of vocal lines don't quite feel like they're going anywhere in particular. That minor gripe aside, this was an enjoyable listen that I was more than happy to give a few playthroughs whilst preparing for this segment.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by musclassia

Bat For Lashes - Lost Girls
[Synthpop / Art Pop]

Bat For Lashes is a name I remember hearing in high school, but this is the first time I've listened to them (or, rather, her). To be honest, this is probably for the best - I can't imagine myself appreciating this 80s-influenced synthpop sound nearly as much at 17 as I do at 27. The simple but moody slow synth beats with evocative vocals laid on top with effective vocal melodies, shaping "Kids In The Dark" into an instantly engaging opening track. Track two, "The Hunger", opening with some organ, sees Natasha Khan (AKA Bat For Lashes) operating at a higher, more strained pitch, in turn imbuing the song with a more delicate, emotionally-charged energy. After this, Lost Girls keeps the listener on their toes as to what is coming next; track three, "Feel For You", is a more upbeat track, with some Duran Duran guitars, a slightly new age-ish drumbeat and bouncy vocals.

The album manages to keep up a similar amount of variety throughout, delivering more modern-sounding ballads like "Desert Man" or synthwave cuts like "Vampires". The instrumental arrangements are reliably compelling, but the standout element is unsurprisingly the vocals, with Khan delivering some delightfully high-pitched singing in the chorus of "Jasmine", alongside her emotive delivery on moving album closer "Mountains". Overall, I would say the album peaks with the first few songs, particularly "The Hunger"; however, it is still comfortably my top pick of this month's selection.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by musclassia

Barker - Utility
[Ambient Techno / Ambient Trance]

After the success of Föllakzoid last month, I was excited to see more techno in this month's offerings. Utility announces pretty early on that it's a more upbeat affair, with the soothing oceans of ambience that comprise "Paradise Engineering". The percussion on this effort is much further in the background on this record than on most previous techno I've heard, with the beats faintly permeating through the busy electronics that dominate much of the album's sound. The electronics are bouncy, elliptical and generate some disorienting off-kilter rhythms. "Experience Machines" is fairly relentless with the glitchy, frantic sounds that constantly shift about.

On the flip side, "Gradients Of Bliss" is almost exactly what I would imagine 'ambient techno' to sound like, with quiet, throbbing ambient synths underlaying a slowly emerging repetitive beat, as sparse sounds pop up sporadically in the mix; the volume and prominence of certain elements ebbs and flows, but at no real point is there a release from the sense of building towards something. "Hedonic Treadmill" acted as more of a synthesis of these two previous songs, with a good focus on ambience and techno but with a slightly tighter musical approach, and use of the bouncy electronic sounds without being too 'in your face'. Hopefully, this type of sound will be more dominant in future efforts by Barker, as I felt this was the most effective track on Utility.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by musclassia








For Tracy Hyde - New Young City
[Indie Pop / Dream Pop]

Opening with a quirky intro piece that sounds like the sound that accompanies a studio logo at the end of a TV programme, New Young City immediately sets out its sound with the jingly guitars, driving rhythm section and energetic vocal hooks of track 2, "繋ぐ日の青" (most of the songs titles here aren't in English). And there's a lot of this sound to take in; 16 tracks, including the aforementioned brief intro and two sub-2-minute pieces. An album with 13 full songs requires either great songs or decent variety to stay engaging throughout, and New Young City provides a fair amount of the latter, sometimes within the same song. Track 4 ("麦の海に沈む果実") is a very jingly indie pop track (featuring the first English lyrics of the album) that kicks into overdrive in the last minute or two out of nowhere, whereas track 6 ("ハッピーアイスクリーム") is a more rocky track driven by the impressive vocals. Meanwhile, "Grow With Me" abandons all rock, pop and vocals altogether, delivering an effectively subdued and mellow piano/synth instrumental.

I find it notable how much the vocal style shapes the sound of this album. As an instrumental album, I don't think it would be obvious that For Tracy Hyde are a Japanese band; however, even if the lyrics were all in English, the vocal melodies feel so familiar to me from anime soundtracks and other sources of contemporary Japanese music as to instantly pinpoint the source of New Young City. This is just a curiosity, and not a negative by any means; the vocals really turn what is my favourite instrumental track on the album, track seven ("君にして春を想う"), into an even more intriguing song. As a whole, I wouldn't say I was crazy about New Young City, but it made for an interesting and diverse listen.

Google Play Music / Spotify

by musclassia

The Utopia Strong - The Utopia Strong
[Neo-Psychedelia / Ambient]

Whilst putting together this mini-review, I discovered that The Utopia Strong is a trio featuring none other than snooker legend Steve Davis - not a name I was expecting to discuss in a feature on MetalStorm. Apparently Davis has had a longstanding passion for music, hosting music radio shows and promoting a performance by classic prog band Magma just to have the opportunity to see them live. It would appear that this is his first major foray into producing his own music, however, releasing The Utopia Strong with fellow band members Kavus Torabi and Michael J. York, formerly bandmates in Guapo, and it's actually a fairly accomplished record.

Parts of the album have a somewhat new age vibe, particularly with what are either flutes or pipes repeating themselves on "Konta Chorus"; however, moreso, the album has a heavy ambient component, with patient synth landscapes such as those that dominate "Swimmer". Beyond the serene, peaceful nature of The Utopia Strong, there is also a psychedelic side, with collision of various electronic motifs bouncing off and distorting around each other in "Transition To The Afterlife", and particularly the 10-minute focal point of the record, "Brainsurgeons 3", with its patient introduction of oscillating motifs that clash to produce a disorienting swarm of sound. Both soothing and at times jarring, The Utopia Strong is an intriguing musical introduction by Davis.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by musclassia

Husbandry - A Port In A Storm
[Post-Hardcore / Math Rock]

I've encountered a few post-hardcore albums whilst contributing to this feature, but Husbandry's A Port In A Storm has arguably been the most impressive. The band has a math rock side, but whilst the instrumentation can jump around a bit, it typically feels fluid and natural rather than forced. On top of that, the vocal work by Carina Zachary manages to carry both a hard rock energy but also a soulful pathos, which gives the band the freedom to move about the way they do. For an example, see "Your Weight In Gold", which moves from an energetic but melodic intro into a fast, punkier midsection, then a quiet softer stretch before a final grander conclusion, all within 6 minutes.

One complaint I might have is that there's a bit of a muddiness to the production (unless it's my speakers, but it stands out far more with this record than others I've heard lately), and it adds a bit of a flatness, particularly to certain vocal passages. That aside, the inspired songwriting delivers rich, moving vocal hooks ("Bete Noire"), thick, nasty riffs ("Velvet Noose"), and twisting, angular guitar work ("The Bells Of St Clements"). I could've done without the saxophone cameo on "Smile With Teeth", but thankfully it remains a cameo appearance.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by musclassia

Surf Curse - Heaven Surrounds You
[Indie Pop / Post-Punk]

Most of the revisionist post-punk that has come out in the recent years is indeed mostly just indie pop or of the darker gothic kind, it is rare that one finds a post-punk albums that actually sounds like a post-punk album while still being upbeat and having so much indie pop sensibilities injected. But with a antithetical name like Surf Curse, it's quite fitting that this blend of sounds would be found here. Already on their third album, Surf Curse often sound like they're actually an 80s band, but they're really at their best when they don't. And it varies from song to song and sometimes from verse to chorus.

There are some late 80s early 90s indie touches that make the already upbeat post-punk even lighter, which goes hand in hand with the "coming of age" concept that the album has along with the very sparse and repetitive lyrics. And it is the repetition that works really well to complement the also repetitious nature of post-punk drumming and guitars, but also very well in its poppier moments. Overall it's an album that sounds really good as derivative as it may be, equally nostalgic and full of life. If someone told me that surf-post-punk was a genre but without the surf rock guitars, this is how I would've imagined it would sound like. Maybe beach-post-punk would sound better.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP








(Sandy) Alex G - House Of Sugar
[Neo-Psychedelia / Indie Folk]

Alex Giannascoli, also known as (Sandy) Alex G is one of the indie folk artists that got a lot of underground clout on Bandcamp, and, quite akin to Car Seat Headrest, eventually got recognition outside of that and got some label support. That materialized in his 2014 album, DSU, which brought the sound he cultivated on his dozen of previous projects to a new height. Obviously a lot of concern was raised on whether a move from an independent artist to a signed one would come with a loss of personality and originality. If albums from DSU to Rocket gave any clue, it did not. And that carries into House Of Sugar.

There is still a very lo-fi feel to the whole thing despite it sounding a lot more pristine, but it's still not very cohesive, like a collection of song vignettes and cool ideas put into short songs, even the 4 minute opener feels short. This does make House Of Sugar, and pretty much any of the previous Alex G records, have a very psychedelic feel just through that, but obviously no one song really feels like the next, and the extended ensemble of musicians who perform on this album in addition to the very out-there layering and you've got yourself an album where you still can't really put your finger on how it sounds like. Folky, but not always. Psychedelic, but not always. Abstract, but not always. Moody, always.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP

Dead Neanderthals - Ghosts
[Drone / Free Jazz]

Two drone tracks. 40 minutes. Let's get it!

And that's the great thing about this album, it manages to accomplish in 40 minutes what a lot of ambient/drone/post albums try to achieve in colossal runtimes. So we have two tracks both about 20 minutes each, each having a bit of its own flavor but also having quite a common ground. I'm not that deep into Dead Neanderthals, but I suppose I really have to get soon, considering they got 4 (!) sets at next year's Roadburn. That's gotta mean something. But out of the albums I did hear so far, Ghosts is as good of a starting place as any other.

This album is performed as a trio, with drums, saxophone and guitars doing most of the heavy lifting. To call it repetitive and meditate and ambiental would be an understatement, but I'd like to point out how well they build upon the same percussive rhythm, once with the free jazz-ier saxophone, once with the post-rock-ish guitars, once with synths, so much so that even with its repetitious nature it always feels like it's constantly going somewhere and builds and builds quite tensely. Slow build up, explosive climax, quite the opposite of a quickie. But it's still faster than most of the albums of its kind.

Bandcamp

by RaduP

Sturgill Simpson - Sound & Fury
[Blues Rock / Alt-Country]

Sturgill Simpson was already a pretty experimental country artist, experimental enough to take the alt-country into really interesting directions and blends while still retaining a core country sound that wouldn't alienate fans too much. So that being said, I really did not expect this album. Just look at that damn cover art? That's not a damn country record. This looks more like Neil Young Trans than either Metamodern Sounds In Country Music or A Sailor's Guide To Earth. It even comes with a Netflix short film about a post-apocalyptic cyber samurai anime or something. Credit where credit is due, that short was also written and produced by Simpson.

So what to make of the actual music itself. This goes without saying that this is Sturgill Simpson's weirdest album to date. There's still a core country sound to be found within the album, mostly in the vocals and the occasional acoustic guitars and pianos, but it's all drenched in these retro futuristic synths and electric blues rock guitars that it comes quite close to a lot of less fondly remembered albums from the 80s and 90s made by blues/folk musicians who were big in the 70s. And while it's a bit obnoxious at times, it works more than I would've expected it to just by how weird it is.

Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP

Girl Band - The Talkies
[Noise Rock / Post-Punk]

One of my biggest disappointments of the year was finding out that Girl Band isn't actually a girl band. One of the biggest surprises of the year was finding out how great they are. Giving their second album a name that might as well have been a band name as well, Girl Band join an already expanding roaster of interesting post-punk that doesn't feel derivative, but rather takes on the genres noisier and weirder and more angular side. It's a record that literally begins with a recording of a panic attack, so it's obvious that the rest is gonna feel just as anxious, nauseating and tense.

The Talkies is really intense in its textures and noise, often leaving its post-punk core for noise rock and no wave. No instrument really sounds like itself and the vocals always feel either menacing or on the verge, with an always weird take on lyrics as well. The thick textured layer of deconstructed noise is driven forward by both the vocals and the percussion but is often given just enough time in the forefront to feel completely nauseating. You can really fucking tell that these guys have been through some really nasty panic attacks and are doing their best to recreate the feeling through music. I really hope they overdid it, because The Talkies sounds absolutely terrifying.

Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP




And that was it. You've made it through still alive. Congrats. See ya next month.



 



Written on 17.10.2019 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments

Comments: 4   Visited by: 34 users
19.10.2019 - 11:01
musclassia
I really like that Bat For Lashes album, getting a lot of play from it
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19.10.2019 - 16:16
JoHn DoE
That Bat for Lashes is nice, I listened a bit o bandcamp.

I did not know there was a genre named neo-psychedelia. I've fallen behind on genres...
Also, isn't avantgarde pop an oxymoron?
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19.10.2019 - 18:23
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by JoHn DoE on 19.10.2019 at 16:16

Also, isn't avantgarge pop an oxymoron?

No
----
Take off those stupid glasses and kiss me
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19.10.2019 - 19:29
JoHn DoE
Written by RaduP on 19.10.2019 at 18:23

Written by JoHn DoE on 19.10.2019 at 16:16

Also, isn't avantgarge pop an oxymoron?

No


ok, then the term makes little sense to me.
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