The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

Details

Recorded at Red Bull Studios, Santa Monica, California, USA, and Johnny Yuma Recording at Henson Studios, Hollywood, California, USA. Recorded by Jesse E String and Nicolas Essig. Produced by Leonard Simone and Jesse E String. Mixed by Jesse E String. Mastered by Michael Verdick.

Wikipedia

Band

  • Nathan Ells—Vocals
  • Dean Herrera—Guitars
  • Andrew Tapley—Guitars
  • Brett Powell—Drums and percussion
  • Sean Leonard—Piano, B3, Mellatron and Prophet 5

All bass by Sean Hurley except “Breathing life into devices” by Dean Herrera and Sean Hurley; “Metanoia” by Dean Herrera.

Tracks

  1. A violent strike
  2. Procession of the fates
  3. Breathing life into devices
  4. The world is a tomb
  5. Metanoia
  6. The path
  7. Echoes of the spirit
  8. Calm in the chaos
  9. Counting down the days
  10. A dead world at sunrise (additional vocals by Shenkar)

Review

The Human Abstract are yet another band that I’d never heard of. Formed in Los Angeles, California in 2004 they disbanded in 2011 having released three albums and an EP; “Midheaven” was their second release.

The band seemingly took their name from the title of a William Blake poem published in 1794 in Songs of Experience.

I threw the album on one evening while I was cracking on with some other work and gave it a half listen. It was more melodic and progressive than I was expecting.

Listening to it again in the car a day or two later I found myself caught between two opinions of the album. On one hand I liked the progressive nature of the songs as they wandered where they willed, but there is a lot of post-nu-metal shouty-style rawk that I really don’t connect with.

But fear not, I discovered that if I just keep listening then the progressive element of each song comes to the rescue and quickly whisks the song in another direction.

“A violent strike”, the opening song is a case in point. There must be two or three moments that I really don’t like and just as I’m reaching for the fast-forward button the song morphs and heads in another direction.

Curiously, “Breathing life into devices” (track 3) has an almost pop feel, verging towards gospel and pseudo rap about two thirds of the way through. Not exactly my cup of tea (although I don’t drink tea) but I can appreciate what they did.

There are a few, I guess power ballads might be the best term on this album. “This world is a tomb” is the first. It’s a beautiful song with plenty of piano. “Calm in the chaos” is the second, which rides along an acoustic guitar chord progression for the most part before twisting into an almost mathcore riff. The last is the final track, “A dead world at sunrise” which quietly brings the album to a close.

Conclusion

There are plenty of things for me to like on this album. But then there are enough elements that jar with me to not fully embrace this album as a classic. But it’s not them, it’s me. Definitely a keeper, though. Next…!

Review score: 80%

16—Bridges to Burn (2009)

16—Bridges to Burn (2009)

16—Bridges to Burn (2009)

Details

All music created and produced by 16. Recorded, engineered, and mixed by Jeff Forrest at Doubletime Studios in San Diego, CA in 2008. All lyrics written by Cris Jerue. Mastered by Scott hull at Visceral Sound. Released on Relapse Records, 2009. Album artwork by Florian Bertmer.

http://16theband.bandcamp.com/

Band

  • Cris Jerue—Vocals
  • Bobby Ferry—Guitar
  • Tony Baumeister—Bass
  • Jason Corley—Drums

Tracks

  1. Throw in the towel
  2. Skin & bones
  3. Me & my shadow
  4. Man interrupted
  5. Flake
  6. You let me down (again)
  7. Monday bloody Monday
  8. Permanent good one
  9. So broken down
  10. Thorn in your side
  11. What went wrong?
  12. Missed the boat

Review

I loved -(16)-‘s first album Curves that Kick (1993), which I described as “a fusion of Helmet, Bleach-era Nirvana, lesser-known San Francisco band Less and even elements of Godflesh.” I had high hopes then for this album and the southern Californian sludgesters haven’t let me down.

I generally know straight away if I’m going to enjoy an album for the week that I give myself to listen to it. I had this album on in my car for at least half of last week and last.fm attests to my having played -(16)- more than the next three bands put together.

What struck me immediately was just how much fuller their sound is on this album compared with their debut album. This is a stickier, sludgier, doomier album. It has the groove and laid back feel of a proper ‘southern’ metal band like Down, or even Clutch, but they haven’t lost touch with their hardcore punk roots either.

While opening track “Throw in the towel” and “Man, interrupted” have a distinctly bluesy, southern groove, just like their debut album many of the songs still carry a Helmet-like vibe to them, for example “Skin and bones”, “Me and my shadow”, and “You let me down (again)”. “Flake” pulls in some definite Godflesh moments.

Conclusion

I’ve had this album on repeat for almost the whole week, so the songs have all merged into one. But it’s definitely a keeper: I’m going to be listening to this album for a long time to come.

Review score: 90%

Video

Bigelf—Hex (2003)

Bigelf—Hex (2003)

Bigelf—Hex (2003)

Details

Produced by Damon Fox. Recorded at The End, Lund. Engineered by Ian Lehrfeld and Carl Grandberg. Additional recording at Varispeed, Lund. Mixed by Ian Lehrfeld and Kevin Wilson at Radiostar Studios, Weed. Additional engineering: Rich Veltrop. Mastered by David Schultz at Digiprep, Los Angeles.

Band

  • Damon Fox: Vocals, organ, mellostron, synthesizers, piano, guitar
  • Ace Mark: Lead and rythmn guitars, slide guitar
  • Duffy Snowhill: Bass
  • Froth: Drums and gong

Tracks

  1. Madhatter
  2. Bats In The Belfry II
  3. Pain Killers
  4. Disappear
  5. Rock & Roll Contract
  6. Sunshine Suicide
  7. Falling Bombs
  8. Black Moth
  9. Carry The Load
  10. Burning Bridges
  11. Bats In The Belfry I
  12. $
  13. Psyclone
  14. Brown-Eyed Girl
  15. Why_
  16. Bats In The Belfry III

Review

Of the 195 CDs in this project I have only seen three of the artists live in concert: Kreator, Motörhead and, remarkably, Bigelf. I saw them on the Prognation 09 tour with Opeth and Dream Theater.

Their live set was a good, old fashioned rock show. It felt like I had been transported back to the 60s or 70s, the stage dominated by two enormous Hammond-style organs and jammed in between them their own mad hatter Damon Fox: all hair and top hat.

If you’ve ever wondered what you would get if you mixed in equal parts the sounds of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Clutch, and Orange Goblin then wonder no longer. The answer is Bigelf.

The album kicks off with “Madhatter” which has a sludgy, stoner-sounding riff in the Orange Goblin/Clutch ballpark but which morphs into a trippy early-Floyd chorus before returning to the opening riff.

“Bats In the Belfry II” reminds me of The Beatles Abbey Road or Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era in its orchestration and vocal treatment. It has a psychedelic 60s feel to it.

“Disappear” opens with a smooth bass riff around which a very simple organ line winds itself. It sounds like a Faith No More b-side. But it’s brilliant. The melody gets into your head and more than once I’ve found myself humming it to myself hours after listening to the album.

The same for “Rock & Roll Contract”. I’ve found myself walking down the street singing lines from that song out loud. Unusual given that the song opens with a solo piano that leads into a very Beatles-sounding melody.

The opening riff to “Black Moth” clearly draws more than a little inspiration from Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” before heading in its own direction as a ponderous song  with a rolling guitar riff that must be so fun to play.

And that’s the thing about this album. It’s tremendous fun to listen to. It’s an effortless listen. It draws on so many classic rock influences that it immediately sounds familiar, it immediately sounds contemporary (how can it be ten years old?!), it immediately sounds like a classic album in its own right. But it never makes the mistake of sounding like a cliché or a pastiche.

Conclusion

I was a bit nervous about listening to this album because I’d enjoyed their live set so much, I didn’t want lose some of that magic. I needn’t have feared. This is a brilliant album. It is varied, it’s interesting, and there is something for everyone. It’s prog, it’s doom, it’s classic rock, it’s heavy metal, it’s psychedelic, it’s stoner, it’s sludge. It’s Bigelf and I love this album.

Review score: 95%

Video

16 — Curves that Kick (1993)

16 — Curves that Kick (1993)

16 — Curves that Kick (1993)

Details

Recorded at Double Time Studios, San Diego between February – April 1993. Originally released on Pushead’s label “Bacteria Sour”; re-released on Relapse Records.

Track listing

  1. Curves That Kick
  2. Chum
  3. Resin
  4. Sedatives
  5. Grandpa’s Chair
  6. Apostrophe
  7. Nova
  8. Amish
  9. Mr Mouse
  10. Joe the Cat
  11. Hate
  12. Doorprize

Review

Curves That Kick was the debut album by Los Angeles’ band 16 who, if you like neat labels, fall under the sludge metal category, a fusion of doom and hardcore punk.

16, who write their name on album covers as -(16)-, are another band that I’d never heard of before, but now thanks to this experiment I now have three albums of theirs — Drop Out (1996), Bridges to Burn (2009) and this earlier one, Curves That Kick (1993). And I’m glad I do because from the opening riffs of this album I had a feeling that I’d like it.

On my first listening to the whole album it sounded like a fusion of Helmet, Bleach-era Nirvana, lesser-known San Francisco band Less and even elements of Godflesh. Which to my ears is a winning combination.

There are no unnecessary guitar solos… in fact, without listening to the album again, I don’t remember there being any traditional guitar solos, only overdubbed guitar parts that add texture and depth to the songs.

The songs definitely carry a Helmet-like vibe to them, particularly songs like “Amish”, Hate”, and album-opener “Curves That Kick” with a growling bass tone and twisted, stop-start guitar riffs that relentlessly plough through the songs like slabs of metal. Track 5 “Grandpa’s Chair”, on the other hand, could appear quite seamlessly on just about any later Godflesh album.

That said 16 don’t sound like they are trying to be a Helmet tribute band. They do bring something of their own to the music.

Conclusion

I’m very much looking forward to listening to the other two 16 albums, if this is anything to go by. A very welcome addition to my collection.

Review score: 95%