Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 25

Time to get heavy, heavier, and crushing on this Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 25.  I usually try to mix it up, but the heavier material has been piling up.  Well, to be honest with you, the amount of releases are piling up!  Lots to discover, and the trick is when to deploy them.  I also wanted to give some time to some foreign bands, and this particular Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 25 has some of that, but you’ll get even more when you go to the YouTube version this week (so don’t pass that up).  I take my first dive into a veteran Norwegian progressive rock band that I assume names themselves after a Radiohead song, and it’s taken me two decades before I listened to an album (shame on me, of course).   Then it’s an album of the year, heavy, stoner rock contender of just booming riff-n-drums with dark blues groove that I could not get out of my head or playlist!  Then, as if it all wasn’t enough, I took on Avantgarde Music’s one man, multi-instrumentalist, French doom metal show latest album!  Mon dieu! Allons-y, d’accord!?

 

LINK TO OUR YOUTUBE VERSION
[Mark Kuligowski discusses these (3) albums and adds four more at the end!]

 

 

AirbagThe Century of the Self

Oslo, Norway.  I’ve been there before and again, musically, but for some reason I never journeyed down the rabbit hole of Airbag.  This progressive rock band formed in the mid 2000s, and when I originally saw their band name, well it got mixed up with a band from Argentina by the same name, and I kind of lost track until the Professor of Prog, Mr. Ken Golden, put them on the list of recent releases (when Ken Golden speaks prog, people who are smart about music…listen).  That was my queue to get them on the list, and get them up here on Album Review Saturdays.  And, after my first listen through of the album, I understand why they remain a well respected band in the prog-scene, as well as to why they’re not a household name over in these-here-parts.

The Century of the Self, is an aptly titled recording.  The human condition is definitely pursuing selfishness beyond that which we have experienced in modern human history (as if we were digressing to a post-modern caveman-ish approach).  The band seems to have a progressive, Riverside meets Pineapple Thief pulse on this on this very mood driven five track effort.  ‘Dysphoria’ is the perfect first slow-developing firework off the bow of current life.  Epic in its range and scope it inflicts as much as it demonstrates in orchestration, riff and lyric.  It was also a great first song (I think) for me as a first time listener to be lucky enough to have the pleasure of starting with (remember I have no prior knowledge accept the misconceptions that this has a Radiohead like approach, which is not anywhere near correct, at least on this album).  There is plenty of Pink Floyd guitar breaths that are simply outstanding and important to the bridge work within the songs.  My ear felt like it was prophetic pause as you digest and prepare for the construct of the music to change.  The bass also played heavily into this as well, as it held it all together during the solos.

I have been searching for years to describe this kind of vocal.  Is this a standard storytelling voice with enough basic range and inflection (seems a little unflattering).  Is it a lowkey, dark-emotional vocalization that has a hint of industrial tint?  I still can’t describe it (damnit, I thought it would come while I was writing).  I liken it to The Waterboys, Pineapple Thief, and Riverside mesh.  It is definitely serious, tonal compromised to fit within the orchestration of each work.  It doesn’t outshine or reach.  A less is somewhat more approach?  It delivers, assuredly making the statement(s) and lets the music drop the mic instead.  There, does that seem right?

As the album moves along ‘Erase’ and the epic ‘Tear It Down’ make you aware that there is a certain sense of urgency being deployed in the music, the bass, the drumming and the overall progressive nature of the band.  I really felt the album was well conceived, particularly paying attention to the details of bass and drum patterns to set pace, groove, and build for each instrument to come in either crashing or in waves.  The overall production seems to want to keep the recording sort of all within a close range of front middle and back, which I felt left a bit muted in places, but having the ‘industrial’ element without it being really front and center might have been what I was hearing.  There’s still a tremendous amount of immersive, easy accessible progressive rock waves and musicianship to be impressed by, and I know that to this point they have probably been consistent to a formula, but have been able to varigate it to every album and composition.  I can’t wait to have time to explore backwards the rest of their catalog, and I hope that more music multiverse travelers reach for Airbag.  Okay, maybe they don’t reach…click it, and chose The Century of the Self to take a solid progressive rock journey.

The Band

  • Asle Tostrup – vocals
  • Henrik Bergan Fossum -drums
  • Bjørn Riis – guitar(s) [I assume he’s playing bass, too]
  • Someone must have played a hint of keyboard somewhere on this…right?
  1. Dysphoria
  2. Tyrants and Kings
  3. Awakening
  4. Erase
  5. Tear It Down

 

 

Greenleaf – The Head & the Habit

I like big riffs and I cannot lie!  Doomy, crushing, throbbing make me cry!  You got my attention — and that’s why!  But, can you make it work for an entire album?  Can you bring the riff to reality?  Can you make it work in production with the other instruments, as well as the vocalist, so that it’s a magnificent piece from start to finish?  Or, is it — like most — cool here, good there, and forgotten elsewhere?  It’s the struggle of stoner rock…the riff can often be that which undoes instead of grooves and leads and entangles.  Well, enter Greenleaf, and their latest, The Head & the Habit to the arena of stoner riff rock this year.  Did they rise above the din of riff inequities?!

‘Breathe, Breathe Out’ let’s you know from the thundering drum beginning to the entry of riff that they’re going about this with all guns akimbo!  Great, they set the hook, and they definitely layed out the production, and I’m in ear-worshipping mood, and they don’t just do the riff and repeat!  That’s right!  They are layering and building space and taking time to have minor bridge work and holding patterns that allow the riff to come groovin’ back in, as well as the drums to blast along with it!  So, yeah, they got this shit tightened up on this first track, and the vocal is hanging in there real nice, too!  After the five minutes plus, I’m ready for what comes next, as I feel it will set a tone.  And it does!  ‘Avalanche’ doesn’t linger, but it doesn’t repeat.  The song plays out of the strength of the drums and the bluesy groove, then it drops the heavy riff and pace, allowing the vocalist to spill the avalanche part!  Wow!  Oh, I feel the avalanche baby, and you will, too!

Now the vocal is definitely being brought in through a psychedelic pitch (microphone enhanced for sure), but it really works so well within this massive construct of heavy riff and drum.  They know exactly when to bring it, and they know when to back off.  There’s no predictability, which is refreshing, and there’s plenty of old homage to appreciate in the 70s that hints at the psychedelic with heavy rock blues.  What you might start to actually realize in that ‘blues’ driven heaviness in the way in which it’s being played with a deep intensity toward the groove and linger is like that of The Black Keys at level of 12!  It’s even in the vocal pitches.  I can already see the lead vocalist pushing the microphone to the crowd on ‘Different Horses’ for the refrain.  We can also site the bass work as the reason that this album is way more elevated over the usual heavy stoner rock.  It’s holding its own, running with the riff, and wickedly thriving with each minute and song.

I’m going to continue gushing, if that’s all right?  The track that sets this whole album off, and literally ear-washed everything I’ve heard this year is ‘A Wolf In My Mind.’  This moved the vocal 70s mojo to the front, put the groove in the front, and let the band tease you before it blasts away!  The standards are no longer low when it comes to this style and genre.  Greenleaf has taken off the gloves, dropped conventional, and found a perfect way to amp-up, reformulate, and serve-up a way above-standard heavy blues rock record.  It has emotional connection that strays off the riff, elevates the drummer (he’s wicked good), and puts the band as a complete unit front and center despite the wicked pace that could have easily left them off the recording rails.  Again, I can’t express how groove-riff this album is, so click on ‘Oh Dandelion’ if you’re still not convinced!

This is going to be a hard “habit” to break in my listening this year!  It brings me to the heaviness and darkness of The Tea Party, the blues-groove of The Black Keys, and the usual keen ear of Magnetic Eye Records for bringing us the psycho-fuzzies we love.  Greenleaf has opened a passionate pursuit of perfection of musicianship in this genre that sometimes gets completely forgotten when delivering all around sound.  The production is absolutely spot on, allowing you to appreciate everything.  These veterans, on their ninth record, are in easy contention for the 24 Best Albums of 2024 for sure!

The Band

  • Arvid Hällagård – vocals
  • Tommi Holappa – guitar
  • Hans Fröhlich – bass
  • Sebastian Olsson – drums

The Head & the Habit Tracklisting

  1. Breathe, Breathe Out
  2. Avalanche
  3. Different Horses
  4. A Wolf In My Mind
  5. That Obsidian Grin
  6. The Sirens Sound
  7. Oh Dandelion
  8. The Tricking Tree
  9. An Alabastrine Smile

 

 

Inherits the Void – Scars of Yesteryears

Welcome to the passionate pounding of post-metalcore (unclean vocal) where the total concept is usually to make your ears trash madly as you search for an equilibrium of acceptance.  What did I just say?  I’m telling you that, unless you’re into this unclean vocal (and you can catch the delivery and lyrics) you are going to spend a bit of time swimming in a shroud of shredding, pulsating drum work, and assault before you come to terms with the true nature and musicianship of this beast.  Why?  Because, it’s alway hard to get rid of the vocal track in your ear, if you have a hard time discerning the wording (and I don’t cheat with that stuff that will allow the lyrics to go stream like a bad Disney sing-a-long, which is something I’m sure Inherits the Void wouldn’t be muttered in the presence of their latest release).  Don’t get defensive yet, boys.  I actually really started to enjoy this record.

I’m over fifty years old.  I’m a product of the late 70s and early 80s, and you all know I’m a Canadian rock, alt-rock music lover, so when put into the thrash, progressive post metalcore of Inherits the Void by my emailing friend, Marco Gargiulo of Metaversus PR, I’m slightly out of most of my element.  But, I love it when the challenges come!  And this one was a great one (and there’s more to appreciate in the video version of this review from Marco’s emails, so don’t forget to click the YouTube link).  The wheelhouse here to hear moves magically in musicianship.  The breath of instrumental shredding and pace of it is simply impressive and completely digestible.  What will be hard is the unclean vocal.  Scars of Yesteryears is completely well conceived in album production, flow and progressive tempo fluctuations and inclusion of all kinds of dynamic pieces.  It’s like a small orchestra on fire!  The way songs move in and out of fury and furries from instrument to instrument, riff to more intensified riff, and then to a drummer that can only be described as speed defying or replaced by alien armed impersonator or cocaine infused robotics (don’t try this at home, or in a lab, or on your home planet) ‘L’eternelle Course Des Astres’ throws in a hint of acoustic space just to make sure the band didn’t go into cardiac arrest!

Okay, so I’ve saved the best part of last.  This is one man… (oh you’re not that impressed, really?)

Okay, he’s French… (I’ve only seen this kind of relentless anger present in their pursuit of being able to sue for the word ‘Champagne’)

I know.  You’re somewhat stupefied, if you’re not into the scene already with bands like Nitch, Monarch, Dirge, or even Gojira (which would be swallowed whole, devoured bones and all by A.)  That’s his name, I guess, simply “A.”  No he’s not French Canadian (come on I had to), and he’s not going to be apologizing any time soon, nor does he need to.  Let’s just put it out there that this is an amazing audio feat in the doom metal multiverse of progressive delivery.  I’m still trying to piece it all together lyrically, but I’m still driven to the ultimate pounding, pace and punishing melody exuded through this one man French doom metal maestro.  Scars of Yesteryears will be a tremendous treat for those in this wheelhouse, but it can also be an ear opening thrashing for those that have had a hint of hard time putting themselves in front of such a blistering metal locomotive.  Give Scars of Yesteryears…. A. try.

Scars of Yesteryears Tracklisting

  1. Celestial Antler
  2. The Orchard Of Grief
  3. Ashes Of Grievance
  4. The Meander’s Gate
  5. L’Effigie Du Déclin
  6. Scars Of Yesteryears
  7. L’Eternelle Course Des Astres
  8. The Endless Glow Of Twilight
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