Writing new Polar Bear Cavalry songs. :] Planning on recording an acoustic EP as soon as I’m finished mixing the new Summer Soundtrack EP! So many projects, will keep you guys updated!
welp… the PA system that i used for the astroskeleton show tonight was really bad and couldn’t handle my famitracker/abelton render, and then my guitar was glitching out. i had to quit playing after 2 songs and pack up. it was super embarrassing, but oh well. i can’t give up.
it just really sucked because i spent months of programming, mixing, mastering, practicing, and arranging for this show and it all fell apart on me. i’ll get it next time ;_;
To be fair, I was rocking the fuck out during all the bits where the PA wasn’t being intermittent. Astroskeleton is best Corvallis chiptune. The club literally couldn’t handle him tonight.
If you’re going to produce a song, make sure it’s a song you -really- love, because you’re going to have to listen to it a million times while you work on it and it’s always going to be stuck in your head when you’re not working on it. Don’t produce music for a band if you are able to be passionately in love with their sound and completely invested in bringing out their very best.
Similarly, if you’re a musician, don’t work with a producer unless they are a genuine fan your music and they are very excited about producing your sound. Their passion will make all of the difference in the final cut.
Creating art can be a lot of work, and some work is more difficult than it is fun. But if you wish to have successful creations, you’ve got to be fully committed to your project. A work of art can never be perfect, but it is our commitment to the struggle for perfection that reveals our passion and true potential.
Today I had the pleasure of streaming After The Burial’s newest release from Sumerian Records titled A Wolf Amongst Ravens. I’ve been passionate about ATB since they released Rareform in 2008 (I still prefer OG Rareform mixes to the 2009 reissue, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, I always say), and I was disappointed by In Dreams, so that might give you some idea of what kind of ATB fan I am, but I digress. When the band delivered the first demo from this album, “Of Fearful Men”, I was delighted and impressed, and my faith in this band had instantly been restored. This release was heavily anticipated by new and old fans alike years before it was even announced, and now our patience has finally paid off. Or has it? Well, I’ve listened to it about three times now and I think I’m about ready to discuss. Feel free to listen along with the full album stream here.
The first track, “A Wolf Amongst Ravens”, is accompanied by a beautifully animated lyric video on the Youtube stream, using the album cover’s blue/white colorscheme to draw us in and set the tone. The song begins with a fantastic swell of electronic sounds, followed closely by a lead guitar riff and vocals. Decent enough exposition, even if it seems like an unoriginal and over-theatrical introduction for a technical death metal album. The swelling builds and drops straight into our first breakdown, and I’m actually finding myself disappointed. The lead riff just keeps going and going, and the rhythm guitar just cycles around the same note on two octaves, but the tones on the guitars are deliciously thick. The production is very nice overall, and the track has a lot of great stuff going on in the vocals and the effects (A+ for the ominous choir voices). It’s a decent enough song, but I imagine it would appeal more to fans of In Dreams than it does to me. This listener generally likes to hear more going on in the guitars and drums. Overall not the best first impression, but I owe it to these guys to keep listening.
"Anti-Pattern" begins with an impressive display of drums - snare and cymbal patterns (anti-patterns?) circle around each other until filling into a generous guitar breakdown accompanied by an ominous four-note lead. This song certainly has more going for it than the last, it does a better job of living up to the band’s name, however it still feels repetitive, formulaic and dry. I’m a mean critic, I know, but this song just didn’t rustle my jimmies either. Perhaps it’s too true to the expectation placed on djent bands to be interesting in number of strings and technicality of rhythms but fuck-all else. The band’s style did change noticeably after they began receiving credit for greatly influencing djent artists, as if they’d forgotten that it was their originality of musicality that contributed to the genre and not the other way around. Whew, anyways, let’s please keep moving!
"Of Fearful Men" was a welcome surprise when I first listened to it as a demo. I was skeptical of ATB after In Dreams, but this song felt so much more like a return to the days of Rareform, I felt completely gratified. I remember a commenter on the band’s Facebook page nicknaming the song "Berzerker Part II: Electric Boogyloo", which I found to be a surprisingly apt description. The opening guitar riffs greet me warmly and captivate me with originality of phrasing - what a breath of fresh air after those first two tracks! Breakdowns that have more notes than I can count! I love everything about this song, even the "tinny" guitar tones. The mix sounds slightly different in this song, the guitars have much less bangy-boom and more ear-candy crunch - what changed between tracks 2 and 3? Even at four and a half minutes, this song leaves me wanting more - and not at all because I wasn’t satisfied. Everything I’ve ever wanted out of an ATB song is here. At last, I can finally feel good about liking this band again. I’m really upset that this isn’t the first track on the album.
Thankfully, the brilliance of that third track wasn’t a freak occurrence. “Pennyweight” begins simply enough, a short guitar phrase is passed around, followed by a delightful major riff and a “FUCK YEAH”. This intro throws me into a giggle-fit every time I hear it. One of my favorite things about Rareform was the way the band handled major key signatures, particularly on Aspirations - a refreshing break from the fierceness and doom that metal fans are accustomed to. ATB prove once again that metal doesn’t always have to be all minor keys and dissonant intervals in order to be savage and captivating. The chorus brings us fittingly to a relative minor, and chugging is elegantly divided by catchy quick-licks. Breakdowns in this song are provocative, they keep us moving without detracting any of the energy of the song. This song has a catchy guitar solo comprised of boldness warm-fuzzies. The piece fizzles out gracefully with a false end and a gorgeous decay, and then jumps right back into one last major-as-fuck breakdown to ensure that the smiles stay put on your face. Ugh, what a fantastic treat. :]
"Disconnect" begins with a beautiful clean guitar riff, setting the tone with intrepid exposition and a whole lot of catchiness. The band kicks in, greeting us with powerful and bold melodies moving majestically as the drums pound and flourish, leading us into an unforgettable chorus - and then before we know it we’re transitioning into half-time, and then progressing, ascending, and galloping, building into a climax and then screeching to a halt, only to kick back into full-force with blastbeats over a beautiful guitar melody. Each section of this song seems to be designed specifically around the genius interplay between guitars and drums, always complimenting, pairing perfectly. An entirely muted rhythmic breakdown is enjoyed in this song, reminding us once again of Berzerker - always a welcome allusion. This is probably the catchiest song on the album, and thankfully not catchy in the In Dreams sense. We want this song to last forever, and it mockingly fades out with one of the most beautiful riffs yet. Great feelings overall, if I was to recommend this album to somebody who’s unfamiliar with the genre this would probably be the first song I’d expose them to.
"Nine Summers" begins with a jovial guitar riff, saturated with character and class. The guitars in this song are unstoppable - breakdown patterns are cheekily deceptive, leads are colorful and inventive. After some repetitions the band drops out to reveal a gloomy guitar riff in a very dark and modest tone. We bathe in this welcome break for awhile before being joined by a soloing lead guitar and a tastefully distorted vocal track, and then we fade right into, I guess, more guitar solo. I suppose there’s no such thing as too much guitar soloing for a band like this, but by the end of all of the soloing it sounds as if the guitar has lost it’s way a bit and all of the buildup has gone nowhere interesting besides circling back to the previous riffs. Nevertheless, this song is definitely ambitious in structure, and tasteful in composition. My favorite thing is the main riff, it is just so thick with personality!
"RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH-YEAH!" The intro to "Virga" is fierce as fuck. Guitars are ripping and tearing as the vocalist gives it his best. "OH!" Gang vocals in the chorus are refreshing, not at all cheesy like the gang vocals used in In Dreams (I’m sorry, I’m far too resentful about that album, I need to stop mentioning it). And then surprise! - WHO THE HELL IS SCREAMING? Suddenly there’s a guest vocalist joining in and I’m pretty certain it’s none other than the band’s previous vocalist Nick Wellner, whom I recognize all too well from his work on Rareform! NICK WELLNER, PEOPLE. ADHGADGKSDGHOGAS - But all fanboying aside, this track is beautifully constructed from top to bottom, although I’m having trouble focusing on anything but that surprise cameo, dear lord. Great riffs in this song, too, but no surprise there.
"Neo Seoul" begins ever so elegantly. We hear a few bars of thoughtful and simple guitar arpeggiation, and then four counts on the china cymbal bring us back into more rhythmic headbangery. Everything on this track is ridiculously catchy, making full use of the guitar range to paint a colorful masterpiece of heartwarming sonic fury. Not the most complex track, but by this point in the album the catchiness is welcome, and it’s pulled off in a way that is interesting to the ear and beautiful to the heart. Not at all a clone of Aspirations, but certainly reminiscent of the energies expressed in that song. The last breakdown delivers an undercurrent of savagery beneath glowing electronic chords, and as the breakdown ends the final chords decay into sheer bliss. You could lose yourself in this song. Or maybe find yourself. What the fuck am I on about now? Whatever, let’s keep going.
More happy riffs! “Parise” brings us back into a tasty complex of major key, moving deceptively between phrases. The use of range in this song is as good as it gets, continuously darting between low bow-wow’s and sparkling glitter-riffs. During the second half of the track, in a stroke of genius, the band breaks to uncover some jazzy chords hiding in the darkness, which are shortly joined by the grooviest bass and drums breakdown, and suddenly “Wolves Within” is instantly secured as the Best Blues-Funk AOTY 2013. This brief break feels similar to the bass break in The Fractal Effect, a rare moment in which we remember that this band has a bassist. From here, a series of celebration breakdowns carry us through to an extremely gratifying halt. Seriously, this is the end of the album? It doesn’t feel like it. Maybe this album suffers from being too pleasing, because I’m always left with the utmost satisfaction, yet I always want more. Maybe I expected fanfare at the end, more of a crash-bang finish rather than a graceful petering-out. But alas, I am an extremely picky listener. I definitely loved everything about this song, save for the fact that there aren’t more songs after it.
Conclusion: I’m actually completely in love with everything about this album except for the first two tracks, and I have a couple of hypotheses. I’d like to believe that they’d intended to make their album only 7 songs, and then some Sumarian executive producer creeped in and said “hey guys, it needs to be longer”, so they begrudgingly bent over and wrote two wanky unappealing filler tracks and then discovered that the only place they could sneak ‘em in without disrupting the flow of the album was at the beginning. That was my first impression, but further research has led me to believe that’s not actually how it went down. More likely, they probably wrote the first two tracks while they were still touring on In Dreams, and then decided they wanted to go back to their roots before writing the rest. This kind of shit happens all the time and it would totally explain the stark contrast in style and quality between those two songs and the rest of the album. But I’m totally just guessing. In any case, the rest of the album severely makes up for it IMO. If you preferred Rareform to In Dreams, I definitely recommend starting at track 3. But the first two tracks also certainly have strong stylistic merits that would definitely appeal to the other half of ATB’s seemingly binary fanbase. Overall, this is a seriously impressive album, strong on all sides, and I personally think it deserves a 9/10. This band has gone through a lot of exciting changes through their years, and it finally feels like they’ve started to breach their full potential.
Disclaimers: So, I’ve never written an album review before, and the music that I produce is nowhere close to djent or death metal (although I’ve been known to sneak 8-string guitar into my indie punk songs). Those are the two biggest reasons why I’m not actually qualified to write this. Um, I’m total crap at writing. Also, this entire review is subjective to my completely bullshit opinion, and although I don’t expect, well, anybody at all to share my views, I hope I this at least gets some decent conversation started. What’s the point of having a music blog if I don’t get to talk about music, right? There’s only about a handful of albums each year that I am excited enough about to write reviews about, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write ‘em anyway. Also, it’s like 4AM here, and I definitely started writing over two hours ago… Yikes. Hope somebody finds this useful and interesting. Buy the fucking album, Itunes that shit, Christmas gift that bitch. Also, pardon my language. Have a nice day, stay warm! :]
Edit: SHIT I just realized that Youtube had the tracks posted in the wrong order on their playlist. My bad for not doing my research. So I guess this is a review about their Youtube stream rather than the album. Whatever…
Had my first show last night and it was awesome :] so freaking grateful to the Interzone Cafe and all the awesome loco peeps who came out to dance and party. Also the other musicians who played were fucking ridiculous. Astroskeleton melted my face off with his chiptunes and now I’m an anime character. No regrets. Fantastic night!!!