Monday, April 2, 2012

Music Reviews from the Hell Mouth!
OK douche-bags, here's what I've been getting high to lately...

Om-God Is Good-Drag City Records
OM is the sacred, mystical syllable found in all of the Dharmic religions. It is believed that the sound ‘Om’ is the root transcendental vibration from which all spiritual life (and even Godhead) originates. It is often pronounced in the lowest and most guttural of sound registers in order to harness its full potential for spiritual awakening (I assume that the depth of the chanting is what produces the depth of trance.) Similarly, OM the band is a sacred and mystical listening experience, a dense spiritual mountain of sound which elevates those who slowly, but surely ascend towards its apex. Sonically, they thrive in the lowest of the low end. It could be surprising to a new listener how full and massive this band sounds, considering the fact that they consist of just bass and drums…
In one word, you may sum them up by calling them ‘meditative’. They crank out these epic fucking riffs that give you a soaring, transcending feeling. At other times their sound takes me to a dreamscape in my mind’s eye of me sitting high atop a cloudy mountain, watching eagles and vultures dare while I contemplate on the setting sun as I polish off a mammoth Spliff. 
Not unlike previous efforts, the lyrical content is fashioned remarkably well, considering the grab-bag of religious/mystic references which appear at random. A fine example of this- referencing Buddhist terminology (Converge onto the death grounds, advance the Rinpoche') on the same song that pulls out mentions of Christian mythology such as Golgotha and John the Baptist (not to mention Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.)  Well, the OM is the universal sound vibration, so it seems natural that this crew would incorpoate universal spiritual themes.
 Formerly consisting of SLEEP’s rhythm section, OM’s drummer Chris Hakius bowed out after 3 albums and two EPs and was replaced by GRAILS skins-man Emil Amos. An almost seamless transition of percussionists, but Amos’ style is just a tad more syncopated than Hakius’ mega-minimal, free-flowing approach. The quieter aesthetics of their previous full length PILGRIMAGE set a tone for this release. Unlike their first two albums which were chock full of huge Bong-rattling riffs, GOD IS GOOD is a bit more prudent on the volume levels, which feature Steve Albini at the helm as production consiglieri. Clearly the focus on this project was ambience and they create it by adhering to an obsessive middle-eastern formula on this joint. The album starts off with ‘Thebes’, a nineteen minute astral projection into the ancient Arab world. I swear that as this song builds you can almost envision yourself in a sandy middle-eastern bazaar under an ardent red sun, as a distant call to prayer rings out from atop a minaret, Sitar and Tambour reverberating in the midst. Excuse me, Hassan, ah, yes, As-Salaam Aleikum right back at ya', um, could you point me to the Lebanese Hash? Cisnero’s trademark Tibetan/Byzantine monotone chant translates fittingly in Arabic intonation. I know, I know, you’re saying “NINETEEN MINUTES?!” I thought the same when I first popped it into my laptop (and the CD too.) But then at 8:28 when Cisnero’s bass churns out a monolithic open note, let’s you hang on it, and begins to pluck at his bass strings (that sound like fucking steel tow cables), what follows is a bass line that marauds the metronome-like ride cymbal and aggressive (yet minimal, and loose) drumming of Amos . It’s at this triumphant point that you begin to wish the song droned on for 19 minutes longer. For four minutes this simple, yet skull-crushing configuration of loosely recurring chords takes you deep into your pineal gland with DMT-like efficiency. Once you are about to cross into the void at 14:57, they slow it down even more and crank the heaviness up to 11 on the dial (Spinal Tap style) and it fucks you all up. Ride Cymbal, Ride Cymbal, Ride Cymbal!  It is at these moments which OMs music uplifts the soul into a state of musical nirvana, not unlike their monosyllabic namesake, the Om mantra. I think I'm going to hire Cisneros and Emil Amos to just follow me around with a mobile drum kit and bass rig, acting as my personal theme music. Ride Cymbals, glorious Ride Cymbals! The other gem on this four track release is ‘Meditation is the Practice of Death’. Distortion gets shelved for this one. Instead, they opted for a silent swelling bass line with some Dub-like echo effect on the percussion thrown in every few measures. This is probably the ideal track to meditate on- 10 minutes prior to entering an altered state of consciousness via Entheogen of choice. This band is my musical obsession for 2012. I’m intrigued by the sum total of their minimal, two-man formula which captivates my attention in a way that not too many bands are able to as of late!

Ice T-Original Gangster-Sire/Warner Bros.
You wouldn’t need to do much reasoning in order to come to the conclusion that modern day rap is straight pussy ooze. Everything is so radio friendly that even the most “thuggish of the thuggish,” by getting auto-tuned to death and back, are common fare for top 40 ear torture. The current starting line of rap will disappear faster than it gets pre-packaged because none of it is built to stay relevant for very long and so imminently it all falls off. The overwhelming bulk of it is molded to fit the ever changing landscape of vomit-inducing mainstream norms. Soccer moms in their Toyota Sienna jam out to Kanye and Pit on their way home from Pilates, is that something I want to be a part of? Absolutely not! Not even if said soccer mom is halfway bangable! As for those Masters of Masengil-ness called the Black Eyed Peas... I'd sooner opt for an epileptic blind-man to give me a second circumcision (without being anesthetized) over having to listen through half of one of their ear cancer inducing crap fests. And don’t even get me started on that pussy willow Drake.
Now, take this certified classic of hardcore ‘gangsta’ rap into consideration. Remember when records would be released that made White America shit itself in its really tight Levis? I ask you this, When was the last time (if ever) that you slid this one in? The joint is hard as fucking nails! I’m taken by how this little gem from 1991 stands the test of time. This record is still beyond relevant after two decades and would more than likely slay any of its modern day whackster-rap imitators. Original Gangster is 24 tracks of non-filler gangster rap with a clear East-coast influence in the beat production. Ice was originally a Jersey boy, so maybe it was imminent that though associated with the opposite coast, the instrumentals were to be geared towards a slightly NY style (sort of like how Eric B and Rakim sounded on “Know the Ledge”.) ‘Mic Contract’ is exemplary of said style, using a funky guitar lick looped over the bombastic up-tempo rhythm of an 808’s kick. This formula gets revisited periodically throughout the album, like on the track called ‘Bitches,’ which slows it down a bit, but still using another masterfully sampled loop, this time a horn. Of course I have to state the obvious, the classic ‘New Jack Hustler’ is on this joint, which was the catalyst for Ice’s super stardom (By the way, unlike the album, New Jack City doesn’t hold up with time. I saw it last week for the first time in years and it harbored more cheese than a Packers cheering section.) If there are any Black Sabbath fans reading this, check out a cut called ‘Midnight’ off of this album, it’s the gangsta’ rap version of Black Sabbath’s title song.  Later on in the joint by track 18, the world hears Ice’s hardcore outfit BODY COUNT for the first time (that first Body Count record is the shiz-nit by the way.) It would be responsible to mention at this point that alongside Public Enemy's collaboration with Anthrax, Ice was crucial in bridging the transition for the HipHop-to-Alternative crossover of the early 90's. Don't forget that BODY COUNT were on the first Lollapalooza bill. ‘Escape from the Killing Fields’ sounds like it could have been scratched out by Terminator X but still having a certain South Central flair. This whole record is banging all throughout. The rhyme schemes and cadences are a little rudimentary, but it was ’91 for fuck sake. It was not till a few years later that hip-hop lyrical delivery would be proliferated during the “golden age” of the mid 90’s. Ice can rhyme motherfuckers, make no mistake about it. He can paint a picture. So vividly, in fact, that I think I want to start flipping bricks and toting AK-47s while sporting the greasiest Jeri-Curl ever seen this side of Easy E. He sure makes it sound cool, the whole bit about being a cocaine millionaire at age 19. And besides, give the man his props, asides from having made serious dents in rap history, his wife looks like this…
Yea, it’s fair to concur, that the man is a fucking real-ass hustler, straight up pimp, motherfucking G…

Ravencult-Morbid Blood-Hell’s Headbangers Records
Okay, question... What do you think is cheesier, the band name or the label name? Actually I dig the band name. I know that some might think this band name really blows exorcist-chunks, but I think it’s pretty cool, maybe because it sounds like something that might come out of HBO’s Game of Thrones. This Black Metal band hails from Greece, though you could easily make the presumption that they crawled from out of the Scandinavian woodwork somewhere. In other words, they definitely display a strong Norwegian influence somewhere along the lines of ‘De Mysteeris Dom Sathanas’, especially on the freezing-cold riffs. But what I liked most about this record, and ultimately what made me cop it were the Thrashy parts. I wouldn’t necessarily call them a blackened Thrash band, but rather a Thrashy Black Metal band. They have definitely progressed since their demo, which isn’t fit to use as a plate to serve digested Gyros and Falafel in peanut-filled shit form. Their first record ‘Temples of Torment’ is better than the demo, though a little repetitive. I checked out some cuts off of that record on YouTube and wasn’t too moved. Truth be told, I opine that they really needed to re-formulate a little at that point. But on Morbid Blood they got it right, clearly showing progression which they should receive notice for. I can only speculate that if they put out another joint it should be ridiculously fucking good. The Devil only knows, this one is really tight. Good recording quality here so if you swear by the black bible of Necro-style production this is not for you. I’m not implying that the recording is squeaky clean, but for proper sounding Black Metal it’s not exactly set to the template. I’d say that the production values are similar to, say maybe, SEPULTURA ‘Beneath the Remains’…
As far as the song writing, these guys pound it out with precise blast beats and that aforementioned cold/grim riffing style. But again, I have to reiterate that it’s the thrashy bits in here that really spice the cuts when the blasting gets old. They permeate a sort of Venom meets Motorhead meets early Destruction flare that’ll have you Black Metal Maniacs dropping your battleaxes and broadswords and starting circle pits that’ll look like a frozen whirlwind from the Pagan north. Some good samples from this album would be ‘Possessed on Burial Ground’ and the title track.  It was an article in DECIBEL magazine that sparked my interest for this crew. According to the article, these guys are not with all the corpse paint and chain-mail armor bit. They’re just about the music, and that speaks volumes to me. Black Metal records can easily suffer from an obsessive attention to the imagery that is more often than not, a little cheesy. I would love to interview these guys and ask them how long it takes before it is socially acceptable in Greek society to propose Anal sex. The Greeks invented anal, did they not? Either that or they trademarked it somehow because as most of you well know, the act of butt-fucking is termed as ‘Doing it Greek Style’. The cover art is sick too. I give it a rating of 8 inverted crosses. Perfect music to play at your little cousin’s first communion!

Naam-s/t-Tee Pee Records
At first glimpse of this album art, you should roughly know what to expect. But there's way more than meets the eye. I'll be brief... Imagine HAWKWIND getting mega-grimy on Skull and Bones blotter acid, meeting BLACK SABBATH at their absolute stoniest and then sharing a heroin needle in some abandoned dairy farm in the Catskills (where this joint was actually recorded), now add Sitar and Hammond organs and a psychedelic black metal freak out as the album's closer. The fittingly titled last rite on the record, Black Ice, bursts into a blast of frozen pagan fury -four minutes in- that had me reaching for my mace and gauntlets. Okay you're not sold? How about if I say that they remind my peculiar ear of a stoned Neurosis doing Saint Vitus covers? Still not inerested to look them up? Hey man go and fuck yourself then, I mean really... 
If Fuzzy Wuzzy took top-notch acid and joined a band, it'd be called Naam. There's bigger muff in this joint than in a Vanessa Del Rio flick. You even get a respectable Planet Caravan ripoff that makes high-time very enjoyable. I had previously made a reference to a certain iconic Stoner-Doom outfit in Tales of Perversion Zine Volume 2, in which I state that the unmentioned band made me wish that...
 'I had a custom built, Hash-smoke filled '76 Chevy van with an air-brushed scene on the outside panel of some Viking carrying some Valkyrie with big tits up a snowy mountain with his pet Wolf trailing behind'. 
Well, let me retort... I take it back! Naam seems to be the better soundtrack to play in the 8-track deck of said Chevy band.
Hey, maybe that's a genius marketing idea for all these perennially 70's-sounding revivalist-improvisers to steal from me?
Vinyl? Fuck Vinyl! 8-Track bitches!!! 
This is my number 2 choice for Bong time. OM being the current first.
Now I have a rehashed interest in HAWKWIND... go figure!
Fuck, I should really be rocking a headband and a fistful turquoise rings right now!

Sun Ra-Three Classic Albums-Real Tyme Jazz Records
I struggled in the beginning to write this review of the great prophet Sun Ra because what earthly words could form compatible adjectives to describe Ra. I won't bother. I will just embed a cool little BBC documentary on him at the end of this review, and hopefully you will take an hour of your "precious" time to learn about a way heavy cat. On this 2-disc set you get three Ra classics from his '50s period. You get the 1956 releases of 'Jazz by Sun Ra' and 'Supersonic Jazz', his first two known recordings. Also in the set is 1959's 'Jazz in Silhouette', which along with the other two records are glimpses into Ra at his "tamest," dare I use the term. No earthly bondage can tame this life force known as Ra, may it be over-stood. What I meant to say by the "tame" remark is that you can probably use this as background music for the next time you host a cozy dinner party for the sophisto-pseudo-intellectuals that you met last Wednesday at StarFucks Coffee. It'd be a hit. These three albums compiled together and played in their entirety display the classy compositions of his earlier work, prior to the heady psychic vibrations of his latter, more thoroughly avante-garde writing. Still, there are passages here and there which abound in mysticism, when not soaring the uptempo numbers with quaint melodies.This is just about as cool as jazz can get before ascending into the astral planes-such as Ra did more and more throughout his career on Earth. From a very early age, prior to his journey to Saturn, Ra was an exceptional male human who was a voracious reader, particularly of Esoterica, Gnosticism and Masonic knowledge. As advanced as Ra's thought-waves were, it makes me wonder, Did Ra write compositions using Solfeggio frequencies? Is there healing to be found in Ra's music?

[Answers are found only when questions are asked?]
The "true story" (according to human accounts) of Sun Ra's life has long been a lightning rod for myth-creation, but what we do know for fact is that the man was a genius. One of the (if not THE) pioneers of Afro-Futurism. P-Funk got their whole schtick from Ra... believe me! Later on after P-Funk, you would see Ra's Afro-Futurist vibe revamped in hip-hop (by Digable Planets, Kool Keith, and Outkast.) Why couldn't I have discovered Ra in my heavy LSD phase? I will be posting up some more stuff about Ra on May 22nd to honor his confirmed date of appearance on Earth... Enjoy the documentary...

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