Tag Archives: heavy

Stream: Fight Amputation – “Constantly Off”

Fight Amputation will be releasing their first new LP in three years with next month’s “Constantly Off.” If the two tracks streaming on their bandcamp page is any indication, then the album is going to be an unrelenting barrage of heaviness.

For a three-piece band, they definitely know how to fill out their sound. There’s a nice layer of clear, punishing bass underneath the thick crunch of the guitar. With tone straight out of Queens of the Stone Age, and the riffs to match, Fight Amp sound like they have something to prove, and aren’t wasting any time barreling through these tracks with reckless abandon.

“Ex Everything” starts off with chugging, down-tuned guitars and the stuttering feel of shifting time signatures in the verse. The chorus (if you want to call it that, as it only happens once) takes flight, however briefly, and ends with just a touch of a hint of what might have turned out as a catchy hook if they had wanted it to. That hook hints at some of Nirvana’s early material–perhaps a beefier “Big Long Now”–with both vocal lines ending similarly.

The album is available for pre-order right now through Fight Amp’s bandcamp page. The album will officially come out on June 9th, after which the band will be playing shows around the mid-west, East coast, and Canada, in addition to a hometown show (of course). You can check tour dates on the bandcamp page, or on fightamp.com.

Album review: White Hills – "H-p1"

Heavy, unrelenting drones of guitar riffage that are spread out over an extended jam. That is how I would sum up the sound of White Hills’ “H-p1” in one sentence. It isn’t totally fair to sum things up in one nice little phrase though as the songs on the album actually cover quite a bit more ground and honestly can’t be summed up succinctly.

The same way that Queens of the Stone Age’s early material would take one riff and pound it into the ground with unrelenting repetition, so do the tracks here. I’m reminded more of two bands that aren’t Queens of the Stone Age while listening to this album, both of them based in Chicago: CAVE and Vee Dee. CAVE’s basis in heavy sounding kraut-rock that sounds like it is going to crush you beneath its weight combined with Vee Dee’s garage rock goodness.

The opening track “The Condition of Nothing” is basically the same fuzzed out guitar riff that shifts between 2 chords throughout. There are some vocals that bring the track into a bit of A Place To Bury Strangers territory with the sound of guitar based industrial music that is sinister and sneering with tinny production placed up against an absolute wall of guitars.

“No Other Way”, which clocks in at nearly eleven minutes, takes the same formula, minus the vocals. A heavy riff is repeated throughout while an echoed melody provides a bit of variety. In the course of eleven minutes the track is developed subtly with a background hum that slowly creeps up eventually taking center stage as everything else begins to fade. These shifts and changes that occur over the extended jams contrast with the sheer repetitiveness that the listener is sure to be focusing on and drawn towards. Admittedly the riffage does lock in to a hypnotic groove, allowing the listener significant time to focus on different aspects of the track.

White Hills - "H-p1"
White Hills - "H-p1"

Following “No Other Way” is “Paradise”, another lengthy track that functions in quite a different way. This time the drums are the primary focus while scattered, spacey sounds pop up at various times creating a much more varied fabric that spasms and percolates to the end.

Out of the extended jams and the stoner-rock minimalist development comes the garage-rock sound of “Upon Arrival” that gets to the point straight away. Psychedelic garage rock with vocals that sound like Alice Cooper and simultaneously provide White Hills with the best opportunity for radio play. There is an honest to goodness verse/chorus/verse structure with a real guitar solo that pulls us back out of kraut-rock groove of repetition.

As a testament to the truly varied nature of the album the latter half moves even further away from riff based rock and into more ambient, free form electronic free form improv with a trilogy of tracks that seem to develop and bleed into one another. “A Need to Know”, “Hand in Hand” and “Monument” could form one giant song, just as the band seems to be doing earlier in the album.

Pulling things apart and putting them back together, exploring different sounds and themes while remaining firmly rooted in the tradition of heavy psychedelic music seems to be what this album is all about. They take ideas presented and flesh them out on other tracks, they run them into each other and play them on top of each other, helping to make sense out of their seemingly disparate interests. This all makes total sense with the truly epic titular track that closes the album at an astonishing 17+ minutes with a truly evil sounding riff that seems to tie together all of the ideas presented in the album. I’ll even give them bonus points for sporting a few extended guitar solos in one song and throughout the album.

Album review: Colourmusic – "My ______ is Pink"

Go ahead: admit the first thing that popped into your head when you read the title. Yeah, that’s what I thought, sicko. Well that’s not how this reviewer read it at all. I read it as “My blank is Pink” because I am classy and sophisticated and a terrific liar.

Perhaps the provocative title, or non-provocative title as the case may be, serves as the point of entry for the album. Upon reading the title the listener is probably lead to expect something confrontational, something that challenges and pushes the envelope a bit. This album certainly does all of those things to a certain degree. An apt comparison in sound and approach can be drawn from Sleigh Bells to Colourmusic, though stating it that simply is selling Colourmusic quite short.

Sleigh Bells stormed onto the scene with a recognizable “meters in the red” and completely overblown, overdriven sound that, to me, tries a little too hard to get noticed and can be filed away as “gimmicky”. Colourmusic tones it down a bit while still maintaining a powerful and edgy sound that is more organic, yet still charged up. It comes off sounding a lot more realistic and believable. The band doesn’t have an overbearing synthetic sound. Live drums pound behind shredding, layered buzzsaw guitars.

Those guitars are more likely to churn out riffs that sound like they were ripped straight out of the Black Sabbath playbook, while the vocals tend to sound a bit more ethereal and akin to Animal Collective. Take for example the vocals in the chorus of “We Shall Wish (Use Your Adult Voice)”. There are moments there that conjure the same sound-world from which Animal Collective operates with lush multi-layering and plenty of breathy reverb. Colourmusic’s songs go beyond exploring one particular sound. The songs have instrumental appeal in addition to those explorations, meaning that they sound like a band playing instruments, rather than creating music that relies heavily upon the manipulation of other sounds. Instead, Colourmusic seems to be interested in having the listener focus on the layers of sound that one instrument or even one note can produce.

Colourmusic - My___-is-Pink
Colourmusic - "My___ is Pink"

The opening of “You For Leaving” states simply the staccato attack of one chord on a piano that is sustained, allowing the listener to hear all of the overtones intermingling and growing into a mass of sound right before the song opens up to a full chorus and pipe organ. It’s an approach that is akin to the work of spectral analysts that compose music where every idea for a composition is literally derived from information that is found in one small fragment of a sound. Colourmusic is adept at extrapolating ideas from sounds but their scientific attention to detail doesn’t diminish their ability to write a dancey, fun song like “Dolphins & Unicorns”.

That song, like “The Little Death (In Five Parts)”, moves between opposing textures starting with a danceable rhythm and moving to more ambient territory. The beginning of “The Little Death (In Five Parts)” though is more like a false start that anticipates a pummeling, raunchy guitar line that is thick and densely distorted, covering plenty of rhythmic ground before the vocals actually begin in a cloud of arrhythmic echoes. The track continues to spend 6 minutes tearing through material that moves from driving guitar work, into a slow dirge  of fuzzed out metal before decaying into spacious minimalist territory.

Serving as a counter to all the abrasive guitars are the passionate vocals that appear on tracks like “Feels Good to Wear” and “We Shall Wish” where a sense of longing and pain can be gleaned. The usual ambient effects of the voice in the latter track are placed on the instruments temporarily which is a welcome flipping of the texture. The instrumental breaks cast that song into an arena rock light where the track just opens up , pushing and pulling against the wall of sound that is barely contained by the band.

The band is agile enough to handle jumping between styles and textures even within the same song. They can move from loud and powerful to quiet, spacious and delicate and make it make sense. The construction of their songs is tight enough and logicalto the point where these changes don’t seem jarring.

Rounding out the end of the album is the track “Whitby Harbour”, which is simply the sound of waves lapping up on the shore. Perhaps this serves as a point of respite from a fairly intense album, or perhaps this is moving more in the direction of finding the music within sounds. A bit of spectral analysis of nature.

This album, “My ____ is Pink”, is nearly unclassifiable. It sounds loud and psychedelic in spots, but direct and danceable in most others. Somewhere between  electronic and rock with songs that have intricately crafted dynamic shapes and tight, well thought out structures.

It’s due out May 10th in the U.S. and you can order it here: http://colourmusic.spinshop.com/

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/14_Track_14.mp3|titles=Colourmusic – “Yes!”] [audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/12_Track_12.mp3|titles=Colourmusic – “Mono”] [audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/05_Track_05.mp3|titles=Colourmusic – “You For Leaving”]

Album review: Queens of the Stone Age – "Queens of the Stone Age" (re-issue)

Re-issues are a touchy subject to some. Who decides whether or not an album is deserving of a 2nd look? Does an album have to be a runaway hit and become hard to find in order for it to be deemed re-issue worthy or is it more that later success in a band’s career may assist earlier recordings in being resurrected from obscurity? In the case of Queens of the Stone Age it is more so the latter than the former.

Josh Homme, the lead singer, guitarist and mastermind behind Queens of the Stone Age seems to be popping up all over the place. He seems to be the journeyman of heavy music involving himself in as many projects as he can including The Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures with fellow omnipresent rocker Dave Grohl – a friend and former Queens of the Stone Age drummer appearing on their 2002 release “Songs for the Deaf”. To many this is where QOTSA started to be a band to watch. The song “No One Knows” was an oft played bona fide college radio hit that introduced their hard driving sound to the masses. That album, though, is much more polished and “radio-friendly” than their first, self-titled release. The self-titled release features the stripped down sound that later efforts blossomed into.

Each song on this first effort espouses a simple formula that drills one riff into the ground with little to no variation at all. Homme is a prolific riff-writer; it seems as though he can go on for days at a time churning out short little ideas one after the other. Think of krautrock mixed with metal. There are super crunchy guitars that present highly repetitive motifs that surge ahead like a freight train. Most of the songs on this first release really are one idea, one riff, pounded to death like a jackhammer into the ground. The riffs that comprise the songs are, more often than not, short little snippets, some only a measure long. It seems that the band is transfixed by them, and as a listener I can only just turn it up all the way and bob my head in time, equally transfixed. At times the idea that is the foundation of a song will be moved up and down the guitar, but the accent and rhythm remain unchanged. It’s as if they are trying to shake the idea loose but are unable, or unwilling to completely let go.

Queens of the Stone Age
Queens of the Stone Age "Queens of the Stone Age"

The guitar tone is pure and clear with a perfectly buzzy heavy sound while the solos tear through with laser like precision. The band, as a unit, locks into a mode where they feel like an unstoppable machine or like a tank bearing down on you slowly and there is no way to stop them. The lead lines are matched in their clean, laser like precision by Homme’s voice that is unmistakeable; cutting right across everything. The vocals sit somewhere between a monotonous drone and a sweetly sung melody that help to balance out the hard driving effect of the rest of the band. The whole package works so well and has a unique sort of balance to it.

With re-issues it is almost expected that there are at least one or two bonus tracks that were previously unreleased. Such is the case here and we are given the tracks “These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For” which is nearly a complete throwaway and “The Bronze”, which starts out sounding like Van Halen’s “Little Guitars” before opening up into a full on rocker. Final bonus track “Spiders and Vinegaroons” is a bit too lengthy and wandering, clocking in at over 6 minutes which is far more than this band is capable of holding our attention for. The track does lead nicely into the equally trippy and incoherent “I Was a Teenage Hand Model”, which takes us completely out of the zone of heavy riffage and more so into the realm of a hangover followin a night of hard partying.

This first release shows us where Queens of the Stone Age began, as an idea, as an exercise in heavy riffs and minimalist motorik repetition. It is good to see these ideas taking shape and developing into something more fully formed on later releases and even finding their way onto the radio. Josh Homme’s non-stop work ethic has become turned him into a one man revolution in hard rock.