Reviews: Hidden Masters, The Black Dahlia Murder
Review: “Of This & Other Worlds”
Of This & Other Worlds is, simply put, an album that came from way out in the proverbial left field. This is a release picked up by top heavy metal label, Metal Blade, and sounds like nothing in their catalog. They’ve had some surprises and real diversity in the past, as they have had some pleasant – and some not so pleasant (ahem … Goo Goo Dolls) – surprises, but nothing like Hidden Masters. Where in the hell did this come from? 1968?
Hidden Masters have created a pretty incredible piece of work that sounds like it was released about four decades too late, which is refreshing. The work on Of This & Other Worlds is so different from just about everything artists and labels seem to be releasing right now. For the largest part, the material consists heavily of elements and sounds that one might’ve expected to hear on a revolutionary album released during the mid to late-1960s. They’ve got a sound that has beautifully lush, psychedelic sounds and feelings created by employing techniques like minor keyed progressions, similar vocal harmonies in unorthodox minor ranges, heavy key/organ presence that follow vocal melodies-a veritable sonic kaleidoscope. Blasts of flavor, a la the Strawberry Alarm Clock, good Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, the Pink Fairies, experimental Beatles, “Paint It Black”-era Stones, fill the air from beginning to end. And that’s a really good thing.
The songs are quite eccentric and unconventional in terms of the typical formulaic structure-verse/bridge/chorus – yet they all fit together within this bizarre framework of sounds that Hidden Masters have created. “She Broke the Clock of the Long Now” kicks the festivities off and is a good specimen of what Of This & Other Worlds has to offer. The verse phrasing gets a little reminiscent of something that Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison might have experimented with when they were at their best. If you’re looking for a bit of the psychedelic Beatles here, check into “Last Days of the Sun”. So much of the band’s sound is nicely carried by the guitar lines; “There Are More Things” exceptionally showcases some really cool guitar lines – very Ventures-like, ‘surf’ oriented. While most of the songs on Of This & Other Worlds are more upbeat, it’s exceptionally true on the cut entitled “Like Candy”. There’s a kind of driving around on a warm, sunny day feel to the song. It’s got an outstanding guitar line with a nice, happy feel backed by a perky drive from the drums. Hidden Masters get a little impishly dark on “Nobody Knows That We’re Here,” which, by the way, is a great example of that aforementioned “Paint It Black”-era Rolling Stones.
All in all, Of This & Other Worlds is a 10-song offering that delivers a fresh, long-since-forgotten way of writing and executing music. It would be great if this release would inspire others to explore the outer realms of songwriting and musical experimentation, which is now an all-but-dead art. A true craft is what Hidden Masters have so boldly resurrected. Unfortunately, this will probably not be the case. But it can’t hurt to put this disc on and dream.
The Black Dahlia Murder
Everblack makes album number six for Michigan’s The Black Dahlia Murder. Through a virtual revolution of Internet rock stars and every kid and their dead hamster getting themselves a few “songs” together and out for the world to lament, The Black Dahlia Murder have managed to sustain and become one of the more substantial of the newer breed of heavy/death metal bands doing their thing today. Constant touring, and refusal to pack it in during plenty of lean times for this style of music, has made The Black Dahlia Murder a bona fide ‘fan-favorite’ – their occupancy of a featured slot on this year’s Vans Warped Tour speak to that fact.
The Black Dahlia Murder have made a career fusing some of the more extreme aspects of the death metal genre: technical musical lines changes and chaotic drumming, insane ‘blast’ drum beats, vocals that are deep and guttural, as well as high-pitched and throat shredding, brutal guitar riffing, shredding pentatonic guitar solos, etc. They most definitely have the recipe for a truly successful band of their style on an international level. Everblack evokes the best of these qualities and definitely stays afloat without falling flat. That said, there’s nothing that we haven’t already heard from them in the past. This doesn’t make Everblack a bad album at all, just a bit expected. There are a handful of bands of their caliber doing what they do, and The Black Dahlia Murder might even be at the top of that short list. But Everblack just keeps them there, it doesn’t shoot them up into the stratosphere.
Everblack gets off to a slow start on “In Hell She Waits For Me,” with some well-executed melodic guitar harmonies that create a good atmosphere and set the mood. And then, like any classic Swedish death metal album from the early 1990s, they burst out and take you by the throat. The onslaught continues through “Goat of Departure” and the title track, “Into the Everblack”.
The production is a standout, heavy but very clear. It allows the band’s brutality to be as aggressive as they can make it and not be a garbled mess, like so, so many other releases by similar artists.
“Raped in Hatred By Vines of Thorn” is a good example of the sound’s clarity – heavy intro with anthemic guitar lines into a brutal barrage of blasting drums and chaotic riffing with some super screeching vocals that are completely audible. A bit of a classic death metal attack makes “Blood Mine” stand out, as it’s sort of reminiscent of early-90s Morbid Angel or even Suffocation, while still keeping their modern take on the genre with the higher registered guitar melodies that stand apart from the riffs. They kick it up a notch on “Every Rope A Noose” with some exceptional speed and tenacity that starts to wrap with a very interesting, unsettling guitar solo which builds up to a blazing, double-bass drum driven forward charge. “Their Beloved Absentee” is another example of a salute to classic early-90s death metal, about five minutes of what used to be called “meat and potatoes” death metal.
While Everblack isn’t necessarily a new turn for The Black Dahlia Murder in terms of sound expansion, it’s one of the better albums they’ve released in a while. It’s a good representation of what they do. Someone not familiar with them could pick this album up and get a good idea of whether or not they want to backtrack through the band’s catalog. Creativity is alive and well in The Black Dahlia Murder camp, but at the same time it’s not a far reaching stretch from what they’ve done in the more recent past. Everblack is the sound of a modern death metal band exercising their proverbial muscles for upkeep and maintenance rather than an attempt at significant growth.