Reviews: From Beyond, Torche, A Place to Bury Strangers
Nuclear Blast Records
In the realm of the so-called NWOTHM (New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal) movement there are only a select few of the bands that really manage to capture the essence of the style and Enforcer is undoubtedly among the best. Over the course of their 10 year existence, Enforcer has managed to produce a catalog that is no less than 100% and they always somehow manage to raise the bar higher with every single album. 2015’s ‘From Beyond’ easily rises even higher still yet, allowing Enforcer to keep that tradition alive.
The band’s musicianship and songwriting has matured, even only since ‘Death By Fire’. Their twin guitar attack shares some great, stand-out moments with dual harmonies, solo trade-offs, dual harmonies while trading off. Jonas Wikstrand’s vocal deliveries are probably his best and strongest to date. The way he carries his melodies and executes his screams are currently unmatched. The growth isn’t only limited to their ability to perform with elevated technique, but the placement and arranging of riffs, rhythms, and overall song writing and structuring, as well. Huge, rolling drums ignite “Destroyer” off as it kicks the door down and pummels its way through, handing it off to “Undying Evil”- probably the most hook-driven song of the album-which is a brilliant one-two punch to blast the album off with and set the tone effectively. There are interesting things happening with the riffs all throughout. The title track rides with a strong gallop and a sound that has a ‘European’ feel-and is as anthemic as it is ominous. On the flipside, cuts like “The Banshee”, “One With Fire”, and “Farewell” all have some big riffs excellent arrangements reminiscent what might have been found in some of the good American heavy metal, years ago. “Hungry They Will Come” is the instrumental track on ‘From Beyond’, and it, as well as “Mask Of The Red Death”, serves as a great example of the level of talent that Enforcer operates upon at this stage of their young career. The speed junkies will not be disappointed in the least, as Enforcer never really seems to need a breather, but should be sure to refer to “Hell Will Follow”, in particular.
‘From Beyond’ is probably Enforcer’s darkest album to date; not only lyrically, but musically speaking as well. Though there are some really catchy moments all the way through the album, the songs cast thick shadows and project a sense of danger that is always present. There is no doubt that ‘From Beyond’ is the crown jewel of Enforcer’s steadily growing catalog. At this point in Enforcer’s existence, ‘From Beyond’ goes a long way to demonstrate the potential that this generation of heavy metal musicians actually has to carry the music far off into the future, without worry of it becoming redundant and stale. Simply put, ‘From Beyond’ is probably the best collection of songs by Enforcer to date, and the talent and creativity displayed on ‘From Beyond’ gives promise for an exciting future. Enforcer chooses to create is music that the four of them enjoy listening to and love playing. No conscious efforts to recreate a sound or a ‘throwback’ style to resemble something that once was; just blazing sonic fire. That is probably why they stand unparalleled at what they do, and why ‘From Beyond’ is one of THE best albums of 2015.
A Place To Bury Strangers-
Dead Ocean Records
If you’ve never had the chance to really look into what A Place To Bury Strangers has going on, in terms of stylistic composition or any other way of saying genre ‘categorization’, it’s not so easy definitively say. While ‘Transfixiation’ is the trio’s fourth full-length release-second for Dead Ocean Records-, it’s probably their most accomplished release to date, as well. With that said, it really serves no purpose to compare A Place to Bury Strangers to its earlier self without delving into a taxing process of comparing the facts only to form the ultimate opinion of one listener here. Everything from here on refers only to ‘Transfixiation’.
For all intents and purposes, if one were to say that ‘Transfixiation’ is a noise-pop kind of record, they would probably not be entirely wrong, though there are a lot of shadows that take different forms and have varying shades of darkness. The darkness actually never really goes away because it’s in the music, the applied styles, the lyrics, the techniques; there is no real negative space. At the same time, ‘Transfixiation’ is made up entirely negative space. The lo-fi psychedelic nature of the album’s sound creates an atmosphere that feels tense and eerie, with a perpetual driving bass that kind of guides the music on the journey that can be intense much of the time, even threatening, here and there. Noisy guitars add a layer of real disturbance that can be a reminder of how uneasy the songs really are; like something could happen at any time. Even during the more pop-tinged tunes with the poppy hooks like “Love High” and “Now It’s Over” have very little light poking through. When ‘Transfixiation’ begins with “Supemaster”, the album is essentially all set up and the course is plotted two minutes in. Feeding right off into a track entitled “Straight”, there is complete sonic transparency established and the intentions for the rest of the album are clear.
Early Joy Division and early nineties Sonic Youth with The Jesus And Mary Chain’s ‘Psychocandy’ and the slightest hint of the Ravonettes might be as good a place to start as anywhere else when trying to generalize the sound of the material from ‘Transfixiation’. But it’s also important to note that A Place To Bury Strangers really has a sound all its own; really sounding like no one else.
A Place To Bury Strangers is often touted as ‘the loudest band in New York”, so when you listen to ‘Transfixiation’, listen to it loud; as loud as you can handle. Cut the lights out, maybe leaving a night-light or two on, alone, or those ‘cool’ little X-mas lights strung around your room. If you can’t feel the atmosphere projecting from the speakers, you may as well just keep the lights off indefinitely. Because chances are, you’re fucking dead.
When you look at some of the press that Torche is getting for their Relapse Records debut, ‘Restarter’, the talk sometimes goes in directions that can be surprising for others listening to the same batch of songs. With that in mind, it should always be remembered that what the talking heads in the press say should remain subjective at all times. What Torche has going on with ‘Restarter’ is a sound that really crosses the demographic thresholds equally as much as it crosses several distinct rock genres; that is, if you’re one to abide genre labels. In other words, ‘Restarter’ has the potential for appealing to a wider audience, in terms of both musical preferences and range of age.
The increasing way we tend box artists/bands in for the sake of reference also causes us to fail to realize that a lot of what we strive to label is essentially hark rock music prepared in a variety of fashions. Such is certainly the case with Torche. Under all of the blending of musical styles, ‘Restarter’ is a very potent modern hard rock album. There’s a contemporary feeling of the sound that some bands-like Queens Of The Stone Age or Mastodon, to name a couple-have cultivated over the past few years that have allowed some rather dystopian musical techniques and sounds to become somewhat more commercially viable. Torche appears to have an understanding of those qualities and how to apply them.
‘Restarter’ really isn’t a metal album, but there are undoubtedly heavy fundamentals to its overall sound and feeling that will be attractive to many modern metal fans. “Annihilation Affair”, “Undone”, and Blasted” are all examples of the rock radio-friendly line Torche can tow. Other tracks, like “Bishop In Arms” and “Loose Men” have some of the basics of raw rock & roll intertwined that could even extend to a punk-like quality. “Barrier Hammer”, “Minions”, and “No Servants” are all cuts that have a pegged out fuzz overdrive and heavy, repetitive riffing that one might associate with the so-called ‘stoner’ rock movement.
As a complete album, ‘Restarter’ is an all-inclusive modern hard rock release worthy of attention from the most mainstream tastes to those that might tend to be more discriminating. With releases like Torche’s ‘Restarter’, Relapse Records could easily begin moving into more ‘mainstream’ arenas and compete with a lot of the horrible material that passes for modern ‘hard rock’ music. There are alternatives to the Nicklebacks of the world, in the form of bands like Torche. The largest differences would be that Torche is a band that self-respecting lovers of rock & roll could get behind and, unlike Roadrunner, Relapse Records could maintain their integrity.