Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2 new LPs - B!158 Josh Hydeman "Madison's Fence" + B!170 Arriver "Tsushima"

B!158 Josh Hydeman "Madison's Fence" LP - Front Cover

B!158 Josh Hydeman "Madison's Fence

B!170 Arriver "Tsushima" LP - front cover

B!170 Arriver "Tsushima"

Permanent Records lists Arriver "Tsushima" LP

Arriver - Tsushima - BloodLust! strikes again! Chicago's BloodLust! Records deals in all things heavy and unnerving. The new platter from Chicago neck breakers, Arriver, is yet another fine tome to chalk up to an ever evolving roster of jaw droppers. Arriver has unleashed a monster of an album with "Tsushima", here's what Chicago Reader music writer Monica Kendrick had to say about them:

"A vibrant and intellectually restless progressive metal band founded in 2004 by brothers Dan and Rob Sullivan, Arriver specializes in producing what are more or less books in musical form. The local four-piece's debut, the 2006 full-length Vanlandingham and Zone, was practically an epic sci-fi novel, complete with elaborate world building—which was allegedly inspired when a piece of voice-recognition software pulled a creepy ghost-in-the-machine routine and spontaneously generated the core text of that world's mythology. Their follow-up, the 2010 EP Simon Mann, was all about a failed 2004 coup in Equatorial Guinea, led by the British mercenary whose name gives the record its title. And this show is a release party for the amazing new Tsushima (BloodLust!), a retelling of a 1905 naval battle during the Russo-Japanese war that all but destroyed the Russian fleet, which had been weakened by a voyage around Africa. Arriver seem to acknowledge the courage and perseverance involved in such a battle with their eruptions, interludes, and grand pillars of riffage, but their sonic fury rests on an undercurrent of righteous anger provoked by the tragedy and futility of war. It's a testament to the genius of this band that they can turn a subject you might dismiss as interesting only to military-history nerds and war gamers into something that can grab you by the throat—at least if you can use your head and bang it at the same time."

"Tsushima" is a heady blend of massive riffs, precision drumming, burly guttural growls and slinky guitar interplay that is some impressive merging of early 90's Earache Records death metal a la Carcass with the tech-y journeys of Mastodon and rockin' swagger of Iron Maiden/Thin Lizzy fused with the never-say-die bravado of the Melvins. If you can't get with summa that, then you need to clean out yer ear holes, take a good long look in the mirror and reassess what the hell it is you are doing with your life. Do we even have to say it?.... RECOMMENDED.

Monday, March 12, 2012

B!158 Josh Hydeman "Madison's Fence" LP - Update 5

The vinyl shipment for Josh's LP has arrived and a formal release announcement will be made by the end of the week.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Arriver reviewed in The Hooded Utilitarian


Even if rock’s triumphal-film-score concept-album crescendos are generally dedicated to narrating combat of the mythic mock medieval variety, rather than documented events, heroic ballads set against sweeping historical vistas have made a few appearances in rock-opera prog, such as Triumvirat’s Spartacus, and in the occasional power metal suite, like Iced Earth’s The Glorious Burden. But despite not knowing more than a few erratically memorable examples, I doubt that any prog or power “history album” quite compares to Arriver’s long-awaited epic, Tsushima.

Primarily from the viewpoint of the defeated Russian Admiral Rozhestvensky, the album tells the story of the Battle of Tsushima, a landmark 1905 naval encounter in the Russo-Japanese War. Wikipedia describes it as a turning point in modern warfare, as it was the first battle in which wireless electronic communication played a central role and the last in which one fleet surrendered to another. The album opens with “Winter Palace War Council,” a mournful accordion overture interrupted by a vicious staccato assault, in which, although “The Dowager Empress warned us/ Eastern entanglements shall fail,” the vocals growl defiantly states, “We will all die, but we will never surrender!” After balefully adopting the voice of Japan’s victorious Admiral Togo, in the menacing trudge “Togo, Son of a Samurai,” the story resumes in the Russian perspective with “Dogger Bank,” a high-speed stuttering Deicide-esque dirge conjuring the shadow of defeat to the distant conflict in the North Sea. “Our anchorage will be refused in every neutral port of call/ You may turn your backs on us,” the guttural snarl testifies, “but we alone are standing tall!” 

In the album’s centerpiece, “Around the Cape,” a fierce, lumbering riff accompanies the background of total collapse, the defeated Russian fleet at Port Arthur and peasant revolts at the Tsar’s palace: “Crocodile hunting and French whores,” shouts the disembodied chorus in the face of their annihilation, “they only serve to slowly weaken our resolve.” A brief, precisely shifting thrash piece, “Dark Clouds Above the Fleet,” evokes mechanized perfection while prophesying the inevitable end: “Misery is all we know/ No solace found in place of sorrow/ Ignore your orders, lashing follows.’ In reverberating harmonic chords, and some actual Russian-language re-enactment, “Singapore” describes Rozhestvensky’s Ahab-like hubris in the face of the looming conflict. A massive swaggering rocker chopped into odd sections by tempo shifts, percussive artillery, bewildering time switches, and ornate finger-picking figures, “Tsushima Trilogy” churns like huge icy waves; in the suite’s last section “The Boiling Sea,” the Admiral exhorts his men to “never lower the flag,” until the battle ends in a whiteout of seasick feedback and the gasping sputter of a dying engine. The devastation is summarized in bleak harmonies over a rumbling funeral march in “Quadrology:” “21 vessels sunk by dawn/ 4000 Russian sailors drowned/ The Tsar’s last armada is lost and with it the war.” 

While many loud rock bands deliver arrangements founded on the alternation of chugging riffs and blasts of fury, with Arriver the shifts are more elegant than startling, with dramatic grandeur favored over shock and awe. More classical than fanatical, their chords never simply evoke Satanic massacre or chivalric soundtrack. The uncomfortable relationship between punk and metal is foregrounded with a band such as Arriver– their sophisticated long-form arrangements don’t fail to sound like the French black metal band Deathspell Omega, but without any hint of histrionic horror or the perversion of nature. Or I might think of the melodic arpeggios, whiplash tempo changes, and layered chords of Between the Buried and Me, or the furious mathiness of Converge or Dillinger Escape Plan, but not of those bands’ crisply gated production values, which seem to only make use of death metal tropes in the service of reinventing angsty Gothy industrial music. Arriver’s old-school chops may even occasionally be reminiscent of Vader, but the former’s symphonic nuance is incompatible with the latter’s straight-ahead brutality. Arriver’s warm, tactile sound, both in performance and production, is most comparable with more melancholy exponents of the ‘90s post-hardcore indie-rock spectrum, like Bitch Magnet, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, or Unwound. But, putting the sound aside, the music is convincingly metal.

Merely an agglomeration of tropes, there is no nugget that makes metal metal. But metal fans might concur that, as stridently humorless as metal may be, its lack of irony keeps it blissfully free of sincerity. Metal is not personal but completely internal, not interpersonal but utterly public, magical rather than political, and thus always, in its way, religious. The nature of history as a diverse collectivity of experiences may seem more suited to punk. Still, Tsushima rides the fence admirably, in its unselfconscious apprehension of a totality whose only unifying element is anguish, becoming perhaps less of a “history album” and more of a “war album.” 

Simone Weil’s essay on the Iliad presents war not as a transcendent individual experience, but an unstoppable gluttonous inertia of force before which conquerors and victims are equally powerless. Weil defines “force” as “that x that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing.” “A man stands disarmed and naked with a spear pointing at him;” she says, “this person becomes a corpse before anybody or anything touches him.” As in Weil’s description of the Homeric epic, the chief tone of Tsushima is bitterness. “The dissonance introduced in the overture, “The Winter Palace,”introduces a dread that lingers throughout the action of the musical narrative”, grimly relating episodes in the admiral’s reflections upon the battle, before, during, and after, with the delusional yet fatalistic determination of Custer at Little Big Horn. “The cold brutality of the deeds of war is left undisguised;” rhapsodizes Weil, “neither victors nor vanquished are admired, scorned, or hated.” On a more modest scale, the same sentiment could be applied to Tsushima.

Glory in struggle, a subtext of all loud white music, is subtly tweaked in the fearful feedback, deformed rhythms, and ominous harmonies that counterpoint Tsushima’s thrashy gallops, surgical barrages, and martial marches, somehow mingling the mournful solemnity of patriotic Russian choral anthems with Fugazi’s insurgent insouciance to create a result that is neither reverent nor skeptical. Almost a straight-faced echo of the miniature Stonehenge proffered by Spinal Tap, the mightiest works and most sublime cataclysms of man are seen in their true ephemeral puniness. Rather than a bestowal of posthumous heroic laurels, the abject defeat of arrogant power seems to be the moral of the story, summed up in the chant that closes the album: “Day by day, like links in a chain, darkness spreads at the edge of the empire.” The torch of triumph and the flame of the fallen warrior must dispel in smoke for any hope to stay kindled.