As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time confronting rough drafts, the process of heartfelt revision is something I can certainly appreciate and applaud. In 2010, as a one-man outfit, Becoming the Lion’s Ghosts Of A Fallen Soldier began life as an illustration of the homecoming and attempted emotional reconciliation of the titular soldier. In 2018, after adding vocals (and two bandmates, no less!) the bones of the original EP have been realized in flesh.
And to be frank, Ross Blomgren’s original instrumentation possessed rough-hewn edges. More importantly, however, these compositions revealed, through the cracks and under the dull synths, the post-metal sensibilities of God As Astronaut, the proggy melancholy of Tides from nebula, and the angst of Deftones. A potent and evocative mix, to be sure. The 2018 release, I am pleased to announce, does not lose or limit that core identity--indeed, it maintains those best qualities and significantly improves upon its weaknesses. That said, the freshly minted arrangement simultaneously adds new challenges for Becoming the Lion to confront.
First, the remarkable improvement. With the addition of a drummer and guitarist, (Dan Mazur and Dennis Paterkiewicz, respectively,) the original tracks are imbued with a significant weight. The riffs are somber, and the drums, rather than loosely hanging in the detached programmed void, feel grounded--rooted, even. The issue with so much post-rock/metal is a tendency to float...but not so here. In this sense, Becoming the Lion recall the ability of Russian Circles to place the audience in a percussively concrete time and space. From an instrumental perspective, Ghosts Of A Fallen Soldier is a marked success. The gentle atmospherics draw the listener in. The delay-ridden keys deploy subtle tethers, keeping them entranced. The package isn’t quite proggy in it’s experimentation, but the dynamics between clean and moderately hefty guitar tones work inordinately well with the ambiance. Vocals, particularly in the case of Rally at the Battlefront and standout Ready, Aim, Fire, brings a glorious (and necessary) melodic element. Melancholic, desperate, and borderline tortured at times--when these vocals work, they work very well in portraying the EP’s central character.
As alluded, Becoming the Lion displays some room for improvement. The vocals, while pleasingly emotive and undeniably successful at reinforcing the ambiance established by the guitar, occasionally falls away from the instrumentation, seemingly walking its own path with no clear destination. The introductory verse and pre-chorus on Too Late Now, for example, feels disconnected in a manner that isn’t quite reconciled by the general sense of confusion and tragedy. Otherwise, the EP falls a little flat on the tail end--after the sinister We Should Have Turned Back, I was hoping for a track or two that served to reconcile the various sonic elements displayed until that point. I suppose that a lack of reconciliation is, thematically speaking, sort of the point.
I’m tempted to describe the whole package as “charming,” largely because it continues to pull me in for reasons I haven’t necessarily been able to articulate here. All told, 2018’s return to Ghosts Of A Fallen Soldier is a successful experiment in revision and (inevitable) maturation. If emotive post-metal, post-rock, or otherwise alternative music is your poison of choice, Becoming the Lion is certainly worth your while.
Like any other, our little Village has its little pranksters and jokesters, and theirs is a crude, unsophisticated humor. We don’t get much wit nor deadpan ‘round these parts, so when someone rolls into town possessing the unique ability to keep a straight face whilst performing something capriciously off-kilter, I tend to be suitably impressed.
This isn’t to say that LA’s heavy rockin’ Deathchant don’t take their art seriously. To the contrary, in fact. It’s quite obvious that TJ Lemieux and Company (John Bolino, Colin Fahrner and George Camacho) are very accomplished musicians, and their debut LP is, frankly, quite the stunner. Rather, I’m suggesting that what makes Deathchant so unique is the ability to launch into experimental passages and then out again with nary a glance backward, maintaining the guise that they’ve been playing a standard heavy rock number the whole damn time. At first, the casual nature in which a track--such as opener Pessimist--slips from recognizable psychedelic fare into a passage inhabited by a post-singularity beehive before ending back at Lemiuex’s sultry, fuzz-laden voice is....unexpected, to say the least. Very quickly, however, this becomes a trademark motif. A similar compositional technique rears its head in album highlight Ritual, which turns a seemingly driving intro riff into an extended experiment in psychedelia, before devolving (or evolving?) into pure noise. It's a neat trick, and Deathchant's ability to maintain composure throughout sells the package.
Because these four switch things up so frequently and unexpectedly, it remains difficult to peg them--both in the case of the direction of individual tracks, as well as the general genre. It has the brooding weight of a new-age doom act, but there’s a propulsive heavy metal element, as well as a distinctly avant-garde jazz ambiance. For a prime example of the latter, look to the somber Eulogy. Closer Trigger is the most aggressive track, the most outwardly “metal,” but still, that’s excluding the extended intro and outro, which are entirely constructed from the reverb-drenched strains of an organic brand of industrial noise. Its weird stuff, and from a standpoint of both personal preference and critical awareness, Deathchant’s formula (if it can even be referred to as such) works very well. The unique song structures prevent a dull consistency that I unfortunately have come to expect from both heavy psych and noise. Beyond that, each track is goddamn interesting on its own merits. There isn’t a song here that doesn’t brings its own flavor to the Deathchant universe, and that is something to celebrate.
Despite the obvious jarring nature of the more noisy elements, a melodic and near-harmonious air hangs, hazily, over the whole affair. The vocals are delightfully laid-back, yet richly emotive when needed. Instrumentally, there are no weak links. Drums, as mentioned, possess a jazzy bent--but they also lay it down with a fierce intensity when the occasion arises. The guitar holds that lovely distortion in loving arms, and whether plodding or bursting into an impromptu canter, that sweet psychedelic tone is never abandoned. Despite remaining unpredictable, Deathchant knows how to comfort their listeners.
Critically speaking, the only real item of note is the length. At 29 minutes, this hardly qualifies as a full album in my (admittedly self-published) book. The fact that I want more is, if anything, a testament to the strength of what these rockers have conjured up. While this groggy wordsmith might not have the vocabulary to accurately describe what exactly Deathchant have created here, I will say this with certainty: whatever it is they do, they’ve done it with great skill and aplomb. Needless to say: highly recommended!
Deathchant arrives January 10th of next year, courtesy of King Volume Records. In the meantime, both singles--Hex and Pessimist--are available for streaming. Otherwise, we highly recommend you saunter, levitate, or otherwise ooze your way over to that pre-order. It’s really not the sort of decision you’ll end up regretting.
Whilst compiling, cross-referencing, and copy-editing the Great Year End List of ‘18, the walls of our slumbering Village were battered by the tides of death and doom. As a result, some calmer tides are in order, and those gentle swells are brought to us today in the form of a single from Austin’s own A Good Rogering. Described briefly (if...not inaccurately) as “non-metal,” Out Of Reach demonstrates a stark contrast to AGR’s typical brand of eclectically raucous heavy rock. 2017’s EP, the ridiculously enjoyable and irreverently entitled This Is Death Metal, sets a much more electric tone. This release, as with AGR’s prior work is groovy, bouncy, and wonderfully off-kilter. Wearing the aesthetics of feel-good heavy rock on their sleeves, this outfit was seemingly slotted into a singular Primus-meets-Manowar category of their own.
Out of Reach, then, is a stark change, yet not unwelcome. In the same way that both Alice In Chains and The Smashing Pumpkins are instantly recognizable by their uncanny ability to provide well-written tracks across the spectrum from crunchy to acoustic, AGR proves that they have an apparent bevy of tricks up their sleeves. Here, the Alice In Chains comparison feels particularly apt, as the vocal delivery adopts a certain laid-back Staley vibe. The track builds in intensity, but never breaks into blustery rock ‘n’ roll rodomontade. A true testament to AGR’s ability to write a compelling tune. The vocal melodies are plenty hooky, no hefty riffs necessary. Much like the grunge of my childhood, Out Of Reach scratches that introspective, melancholic itch quite handily. The acoustics are presented with a competent grace, the chorus is a real earworm, and the lyrics, while suitably dark, remain comforting. All is well.
AGR is due for an album this coming year, and if it manages to balance the quiet emotive numbers such as this with their more heavy-handed side, I will be suitably impressed. With that said, Out Of Reach hasn’t left rotation for weeks, and with songwriting this good, I can expect the best. Our recommendation? Check it out on spotify, post-haste.
A Good Rogering can be found:
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry