Thursday, 7 November 2013

Unusual Locations... Part Deux.

Well this is the second part of this series. This is where I talk about bands from what could be called unusual locations, but that quite frankly isn't enough though as they have to be good as well. Being novel is one thing, being good is something completely different.

The first project/band (and the inspiration for making this sequel blog) that I want to talk about comes from a tiny island that I had to look up, as I was sure that the last time I heard it's name mentioned was in a fantasy book. But no, there it is. Tiny teeny weeny island, the size of a walnut. The island is Aruba, and the project is The Isle Project. Apparently this is just one guy with his guitar, keyboard and computer. For anyone who's listened to say Animals As Leaders will recognise the style. The album is entirely instrumental with lots of effects being used, guitar pedals galore, synthesizers and computer magic on display. There is a lot of Tosin Abasi worship going on here, the good thing being it's not a straight of rip-off but a rather well played tribute. The album New Perspective is also sounds like it could have been used for a First Person Shooter, or possibly a Real Time Strategy a la original Command & Conquer. It is safe to say that this album has made a big enough impression on me to look forward to the next one.

Now with a country that has 1.2 billion people that there would be more famous bands springing out, but no the most famous musician that I'm aware of from India is Ravi Shankar. And he was dull. Way dull. But these next two acts are not. While they do both come under the Metal Genre, they are as different metal bands as you can get.

Bhayanak Maut have been playing and entertaining the Indian masses for 10 years. The first time I came across them was on one of Metal Hammers excellent Global Metal compilations, I'm going to have to dig up that album again because there were some excellent bands on show there. Apparently they started out as a sort of a joke band, which quickly, evolved into a working band with a joke to play. Not only that but a really good working band with their tongue firmly in their cheek. The name translates as "Terrible Death". Currently, at least according to themselves, they are the biggest metal band in India. If there is anything I could describe them as Groove Metal with Metalcore vocals. Which usually is  a bad thing in my books, but these guys to seem to pull it off. They've only released one full album but on the flip side they've done 3 EP's, my personal favourite being Malignant. I would love to see these guys in a live setting, as I can imagine it being a sweaty, neck breaking session of fun, filth and frolics.

The second band from India that I want to mention is Amogh Symphony. Lets get this straight right now. It's not a symphony. It's not even close to being a symphony, but if the dude who runs it ever decided to make a symphony I'd buy a ticket the minute he announces it. Now according to the Holy Book of Armaments, this band is classified as Progressive Death Metal. Which well, I do suppose could be true, but without the vocals it's pretty hard to classify it as such. But instrumentally Vishal owes a lot to Cynic and Atheist, in the sense that there's quite a bit of jazzy elements that both of those bands love to incorporate in their act but first and foremost there's the prog. The first album 'Abolishing The Obsolete System' is very much a solo project as it's just him with his guitars and a computer, no vocals. He does use some synthesized vocals that probably came with whatever music program he mixed it in. (I do wish I had at least a 1/10 of his guitar playing talent.) There's flamenco playing, some BollyPop with occasional orchestral touches. With the second album, 'The Quantum Hack Code',  he managed to hire a drummer that could keep up with him. And generally uses the same tricks as the first album, that is not to say that he's repeating himself. Dear Gods no, just that he consolidates what he did in the first album and adds more extravagant flourishes.  The Quanttam Hack Code is meant to be a concept album with interludes in between telling a story on how humankind is about to be annihilated in the far far away future. I sort of imagine that this album would be great as a soundtrack to System Shock 2

Picture South-Africa... lions roaming the savannahs, sun, sand, beaches, Morgan  Freeman as Nelson Mandela... so when you come across bands from this sun-ripened country that not only play metal, but metal of the variety that is more associated with ice, frost-bitten desolation, grimness and hypothermia. Not just one, but two! That's right. Two Black Metal bands. From South Africa. First up Warthane, they hail from a town called Alberton, but have since emigrated to Sweden. Though I would have thought that Norway would have been a better fit, but what hey. They've been around since 2004 and so far published 1 EP and 2 full albums. The only album I've heard is called Black Divine which came out in 2011, and it on show there is plenty of desperate black metal going on with what can only be said thrash riffs thrown in and death metal vocals. Straight from the get go you have a song that represents everything that they want to accomplish, buzzsaw guitars, blastbeats, shrieking, with the occasional operatic female singer piping in whenever the song calls for beauty. There's the iddly widdly guitar solo's. The barks. The fast drums. Yes, if I had to have a guess I would have said that these guys used to live next to Ihsahn and grew up with Varg.

Sean Gouws does have some great singing/guitar playing chops and I do hope that this is not the last we hear from him or Warthane. Don't get me wrong, it would be easy to dismiss these guys as gimmicks on the basis of the genre and where they come from, but that would foolish at best, stupid at worst. While people who don't like Black Metal already won't find anything to enjoy on here, those who already spent their minds eye and ears wallowing around tundras in animal skins will find plenty to enjoy.

Then we have Crow Black Sky. And they hail from Cape Town. Though they do come under the umbrella term of Black Metal, they are a completely different beast from Warthane. Crow Black Sky manage to invoke the sounds of Emperor, Dimmu Borgir and early Cradle of Filth very easily. Specially the latter two. Crow Black Sky have got this expansive sound going on with orchestral flourishes here and there, piano being exuberantly and expertly played, emotions building up and up and then crumbling down. There's even an instrumental power ballad! And for a debut album they've really gone all out on their sound. The sound that they also bring across is quite nautical in nature. The singer doesn't stray much from the black metal croaking. Then there's this Danish Blue Cheese-fest of a music video, that uses all the hallmarks of Black Metal Manowar, and I love it for exactly those reasons. For a self produced and a completely DIY project this has the hallmarks of professionally done album. It will be interesting to see what they will do next.

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