Here are some songs that are totally floating my boat at the minute, check em out, find a new song to love and support the band accordingly if you do.
Howdy; welcome once again to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about the music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).
Its day 27, so that means I’ve made it 27 days without buying any cds, dvds, comic books or videogames. The man who started this blog four years ago could never have gone this long without consumerism. I’m pretty sure back when I worked my old job in 2010, I probably bought on average about two cds a week for the entire year at a minimum.
I haven’t actually posted much this time around because for the first 75% of the month, I’ve been super busy working crazy hours and having to fit in lots of academic work at home too for my final year. The other 25% of the month has been spent with loved ones and crazily poor internet signal. So, didn’t want to be rude and spend family time blogging, and didn’t have a good enough signal to do it much anyway, or at least do it easily.
Normally, going a month without buying anything would be quite difficult, but with the whole Christmas thing, I get to buy other people gifts and that sates the itch, so its been much easier. Also, you don’t know what you may receive as a gift and then buy nothing incase you’re gifted with it.
I’ve been really tempted a couple of times though, because, hey… I’m me. I saw Stratovarius and Accept albums in HMV this month and they never had them when I went looking for them. I saw Manowar albums on Amazon for between £1 and £3 that I’ve wanted for a while but are always more expensive. A lot of bands I like put out new albums and I’ve not gotten around to getting them (this year I’ve been so bad with buying new releases I can’t even put together an AOTY list!) even after seeing some of those bands live.
There’s also been numerous temptations within the world of comics. Just before starting this new fifth round of the GITWYPF challenge, I discovered Comixology. I mean I’d heard of it for the last two years, but Digital Comics seemed like a bad idea… I like reading physical books and laptops hurt my eyes and are the wrong shape for stories designed to be read in the shape of actual physical comics (unless you put a laptop on its side). So, for the two years I’ve been reading comics I avoided it, but the fact that so much is unavailable or only available on eBay for crazy prices, but available digitally for about £1 an issue (with no P&P because its digital) kind of won me over, and I can fill in gaps using this. Its not even poor to read due to the “guided view” feature, which zooms and readjusts the panels in order and blanks out the other panels, allowing you to watch the comic like a powerpoint or a slow cartoon. As a service, it’s a bit addictive though, and so a huge source of temptation. You the read two issues you want and then it makes you want to buy the ones before and after, or older ones of historical importance. Its too easy, too tempting, damn hard to stay away from.
Also, being in bookshops for getting others gifts makes me walk past lots of comic books and that makes you very close to just slipping one in there with the rest of the less-selfish purchases.
Videogames haven’t been a temptation at all, because I don’t have the time. It takes time to start up, time to shut them down or find savepoints, and your brain is abuzz afterwards so you can’t play them right before its time to sleep if you have to go to work in the morning. Compared to a book or comic book that you can just pick up and set down at a moments notice, its harder to fit them in. I got God Of War Ascension for my Birthday in the Summer and only managed to play it when Uni broke up about a week or so ago, and even then only for two days, and I still haven’t opened up Darksiders 2 which I got last Christmas. Theoretically I could now, but I don’t have a console with me at the moment, and by the time I get back to my term time address I’ll be hard at work again.
On the subject of God Of War Ascension, it was pretty good. I love that series, it is one of the most consistant and dependable series going. The combat is absolutely perfect, and its fun to see what vast-scale ideas they come up with next. It felt maybe like GOW 3 backed them into a corner and this prequel wasn’t just as impressive, but it was damn good regardless. I only got time to play one run-through of single player and no multiplayer, bonuses or second attempts, but on first impression it was very entertaining.
Anyway, the reason I right these things is to stop myself slipping up in the challenge. I may not have written many entries this time around, but I haven’t slipped up. I’ve stayed true, stayed the course (and whatever other “stay” phrases apply) and haven’t bought anything for myself since starting the challenge. Its been helped immensely by the Christmas presents.
I got the new Mushroomhead, Slipknot, Machine Head and Corrosion Of Conformity albums, as well as Helstar’s Nosferatu. I also got Spawn, Batman, X-Men and Spiderman comics. All delightfully nerdy gifts that stave off the “buy new stuff” urge very well. (Until I finish the comics and want the next in the series, at least).
Over the month, I’ve been really heavily listening to stuff I got for my Birthday, like the Tirivium, Judas Priest, Soundgarden, Helloween, Manowar and Savatage records I’ve already discussed on this blog ad naseum, in addition to Rishloo’s superb new album (of fucking course!) – because this year is going so ridiculously quickly that those still feel brand new despite being several months old – and in the last two days I’ve been blitzing those Christmas gift albums.
Did you know the Mushroomhead one has a cover of Adele’s “Rumour Has It” ? I had no idea until the chorus came in on my first listen through. Quite the surprise! Usually, I hate when Metal bands cover pop songs, especially if they aren’t particularly old. Covering a current pop song is a bit cheesy. But this works. Also, I’m way less snobby these days – Five Finger Death Punch covering “Moma Said Knock You Out” and nailing it will do that to ya.
The new Slipknot and Machine Head albums are good, by the way. Really good. The Machine Head one in particualt seems like a bit of a min-masterpiece in fact. If I heard enough new albums to do an AOTY list, it’d be damn tough choosing the top spot between it and Accept’s Blind Rage. Slipknot’s new album is interesting, beforehand I could not have been more cynical about or suspicious of. I was convinced it would be rubbish. It really isn’t though. Its strong. Damn strong. Stronger than the last one for sure. It seems to be a grower. Even all the lyrics about Paul’s death aren’t as cheap and cheesy as I imagined. I’d streamed “Skeptic” a few times because I’d heard that it was about Paul and I really cringed at the lyric “the world will never see another crazy muthafucker like you” – it just felt so dishonest and cheap, as if it was purely written to get sang along with and to make headlines, but the more I listen to it, in context, with the rest of the lyrics… I think its actually honest. Especially given how Corey and Shaun actually talk in real life.
The rest of that album is really good too. Its heavy, there aren’t any real ballads, the songs with poppier choruses never have as poppy verses as anything like “Dead Memories” or “Before I Forget.”
Not that heaviness in itself is good enough on its own. The thing is that the songs themselves are actually good. Memorable, catchy, the solos that feel more natural and less “look, I’m soloing.” There are some real fun, satisfying riffs on there and the new drummer actually keeps up Joey’s unique flappy, skittery style of drumming so it doesn’t sound like a huge departure.
I’ve also been listening to Machine Head’s older albums too. Inspired by the recent concert, and the new album, its always good to break out the ones I already own. Through The Ashes Of Empires has some of my absolute favourite Machine Head songs on it. “Vim,” “All Halls Down” and “Wipe Away The Tears” are the perennial favourites, and the concert made me reevaluate “Descend The Shades Of Night” and “Bite The Bullet” which I’ve overlooked in the past.
Then there’s Blind Guardian’s Nightfall In Middle Earth. Its like a mixture between Testament, Gamma Ray and oddly, Gentle Giant. I highly recommend checking that one out.
Being back with my family for the holidays I’ve also been exposed to my brother’s music. I’ve gotten to check out the new Animals As Leaders and Skyharbour albums. That is some seriously good stuff right there!
Check out the Animals As Leaders song “Physical Education” – such a fun tune!
I’ve also got access to my CDs again, because in my own place – half a country away – I don’t have the space to keep my CDs. My iTunes copies of a few Porcupine Tree and W.A.S.P. albums had glitches and faults in them, so being back here I was able to re-rip them. Its great listening to the songs properly without it skipping and cutting off short.
The rest of the time has been spent on romantic trips with my beautiful girlfriend, huge amounts of scrabble with the family, and watching all three seasons of That Mitchel And Webb Look and a series of Peep Show. I can’t go anywhere now without hearing Sir Digby Chicken Ceaser’s singing in the back of my head.
Its been an excellent break. The final one of this life as I’ll be qualified by the next one and go from someone who works to someone with a career – I forsee this will be my last Chirstmas day off for a while. I’ve been lucky in that my current job and my last job didn’t have me work on Christmas day (although I’ve done it before in previous jobs to that). Its been nice getting homework done and weights lifted in the same building as family instead of hundreds of miles away, its been nice having the time off work and its been nice having the free time to read so much. The crushingly slow internet was a tiny bit inconvenient but there’s only so many blogs about heavy music or Batman that a person can read in a month anyway.
Plus all this time in the middle of nowhere with no shops and too poor internet to access iTunes Store or Comixology well enough is pretty darn good for sticking to the challenge.
The standard of musicianship here on this album is excellent, particularly drummer Jay Postones and bassist Amos Williams, who’s superb rhythm section forms the backbone of the record. The production job is flawless, and all instruments (and even individual bass strings, drums and cymbals) are clear and audible, amongst the textured guitar, vocal and electronic waves which float over the top.
There’s a nice balance of fast and slow, heavy and soft, straightforward and complex, and a cohesion and sense of purpose that makes the album feel like one, singular, well-considered piece of work.
Highlights include the catchy album closer “Eden,” as well as the lengthy multi-part “Concealing Fate” and the punchy “Sunrise.”
For fans of the band’s second album, Altered State its worth noting that Daniel Tompkins (of Skyharbor fame) provides lead vocals on this album, before their current singer Ashe O’Harra joined the band becoming the band’s fifth lead vocalist to date. Thompkin’s vocal style is in the same ball-park of lush, melodic and emotional clean singing, although different enough that you notice the change.
Musically, this album is noticeably heavier than its follow-up, and there aren’t any saxophones, but in general the band’s identity is more-or-less the same and if you enjoyed Altered State, you should easily enjoy One.
For newcomers to the band entirely, especially those skeptical of anything associated with the word “Djent” its worth noting that in the same way that Thrash Metal bands took the chugging of songs like Black Sabbath’s “Symptom Of The Universe” and spun-off on that idea developing entire songs and albums using that as a starting point from which to develop their own ideas; Here, you can hear the sort of guitar tones and complex rhythms that Meshuggah have been playing since the 90s used as a jumping off point.
Rather than the all-out punishing assault of Meshuggah and their progressive take on extreme Metal, Tesseract deliver that sort of rhythm mixed in with floaty melodic vocals in the vein of Tool and Rishloo, and subtle ambient electronics to create something else. It couldn’t have existed without Meshuggah, and it couldn’t have existed before Melodic Metalcore became a decade-long mainstay of the Metal world, but it isn’t one or the other.
If you are a fan of established bands like Dream Theater, Riverside, Opeth, Fates Warning, Tool or many other Progressive bands within the Metal spectrum, you will find little touches here and there that chime something with what you like already, be that in the use of dynamics or uncommon time-sigs, but updated and in a different shape. If you like bands like Sikth, Botch, Carbomb, Fellsilent, Dillinger Escape Plan, or anyone in the math-y end of the Metal spectrum you man find something you like, but updated and in a different shape, and well, the same goes for if you like Meshuggah. Its not impossible to like Meshuggah and Tesseract despite what a vocal minority may claim.
If you are a fan of bands like Periphery, Monuments, Circles, Animals As Leaders, Textures, Volumes, Structures, Intervals, Skyharbor, Vildhjarta, Miroist, Hacktivist, The Algorithm or The Safety Fire then you may recognize the shape already and enjoy another slightly different take on it.
Overall; Tesseract are a strong and interesting band and One is a strong and impressive debut that should keep fans of the band, fans of the subgenre and fans of the overarching genre happy. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the band because of the movement they belong to, as you’ll miss out on some brilliant music if you do. This isn’t just a throw-away album from a flash in the pan trend, there’s a demonstrable artist weight to be found here.