Disco!

No, you have not arrived to an italodisco cavern with flashing lights and sleazy mustache. As fun as it may sound, this category is about discographies! I will run through the works of a certain artist. More or less.

Alcest – Kodama

594384The songwriter / guitarist / vocalist of Alcest, Neige is undoubtedly some sort of genius. Alcest is the kind of music that I should hate or be completely bored of, but I’m not. At best I love them (and have a slight man-crush on Neige, but who Alcest fan doesn’t?). Alcest can evoke feels unlike any other band. Not in terms of largest scale, but different.

The preceding album Shelter‘s half-boring, half-ok post-rockpopfest felt dangerous like a picnic in kindergarten. It ended with a mighty and infusing 10 minute track Delivrance and the 2016 release Kodama also saves the best for last. The last minutes of Oiseaux de proie‘s blastbeating and ethereal melodies could go on forever. Just when I am hoping that it would explode like first album’s Les Iris into an even more supremely emotional melody (yet afraid that if it happens I might end up shedding some tears), it ends, unfortunately.

Even for a heartless music reviewer Neige’s French still sounds damn romantic. The fourth track Untouched is pretty but I can’t get over how hentai it sounds in this romantic Japanese context. It’s just wrong or I am a crooked-minded bastard. Probably both. I’m glad both of the skeleton hands are ON the surface of the water in the album cover.

Kodama is a fine album overall. Shelter went too deep to majorkeys out of the darkside and lingering melancholia of blackgaze. On Kodama, there’s more metal elements that distribute variety. Clever twists surprise just when things are on verge of going too cheesy (take the title tracks echoing surround acoustic guitars as an example). This interplay also makes the emotional parts more compelling. Surprisingly the track with the most growling vocals and blastbeating, Eclosion is also the most positive one.

Unlike Souvenirs d’un autre monde (1st album) and Shelter (4th album) Kodama delivers enough to be lockered with the truly successful entities Écailles de lune (2nd album) and Les voyages de l’âme (3rd album).

Les voyages de l’âme grew to be a fine album, but it took over a year, I expect Kodama may well keep getting better. Les voyages has many of the finest moments in Alcest discography which will keep it superior to Kodama, but neither can challenge the strongest base level of Écailles de lune. However, I am still waiting Alcest to combine these elements on a flawless display that the band has been hinting towards for over 10 years now.

7+/10 (with growth potential)

If These Trees Could Talk, quick runthrough of their last three albums

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Above Sky, Below Earth (2009)

Above Sky, Below Earth (2009), the second album of If These
Trees Could Talk was and still is one of my favourite post rock records. When I tuned in Red Forest (2012) some years back it seemed like a lamer, albiet pretty good, successor recycling same elements.

Strangely in further years I got rid of the recycling feel and Red Forest grew to be almost at the same level. Its best individual track Red Forest, took hold of their best track title.

The latest effort Bones of a Dying World (2016) kicks in instantly. It is hard to fathom why there’s no instant recycling feel as its largely a similar record. The key components are still the organic progressing compositions and plenty of high-flying tremolo melodies with some really atmospheric ambience setting an effortless and relaxed background. The weird jazz feel of the second track Swallowing Teeth is partly to blame of the freshness.

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Red Forest (2012)

The compositions have an unseemly amount of earthliness and a remarkable amount of naturefeels, like a walk in the woods. As cliche as it may sound.

For all its glory after the 5th track The Here and Hereafter I start get a tingling feel of recycling again! I cannot really remember much of the end album even though it sounds proficient. For this, I will have to address the review later. I’ll put on an alert and add a paragraph or two one year later to see whether this sensation wears off like with Red Forest.

In anycase I am fairly sure The Bones of a Dying World will be high on my, so far short (2015 unveiled a lot of its jewels after the year had turned), best of 2016 list.

TO BE UPDATED NOVEMBER 2017

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Bones of a Dying World (2016)

For quickie listens a backwards chronological playlist:

Kingston Wall – Best hidden secrets of Finnish Rock

hqdefaultWhen I was a kid in the middle of the 1990s, the kids who were serious about rock and metal listened bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Kingston Wall and Guns n’ Roses. I always thought Kingston Wall was one of those big-selling ass-kicking rock bands. And backwards thinking I should have been more right.

Kingston Wall should have been there, but there are errors in the world. Kingston Wall has all the qualities of the household major rock bands, except the major thing, and that isn’t the quality of music. They were never properly advertised and their music was not spread by a huge corporation. Their albums were first released by their front man Petri Walli’s own company Trinity. Afterwards they’ve been released by multiple different companies, the first rerun being years after the band had broken up, 1998. Also, they were very 60s in the forwards thinking 90s, and hard to copy.

Still they became “the” progressive rock group in Finland after Wigwam. Almost all Finnish persons who are interested in rock and metal have had their Kingston Wall phase. They’ve been a massive influence to Finnish musicians, one of the most notable being Amorphis (and pretty much every progressive rock or progressive metal group since the 2000s).

Kingston Wall was masterminded by a charismatic and extremely talented vocalist and guitarist Petri Walli. The other two core members were Jukka Jylli (bass) and Sami Kuoppamäki (drums). In fact Sami Kuoppamäki was their 3rd drummer who joined the band when they had already played over 60 gigs (with Petteri Ståhl 1987-1989 and Timo “Tinde” Joutsimäki 89-90).

They released three albums from 1992 to 1994. They broke up in 94 and Petri Walli went on to finalize their career by killing himself in 1995. He was a very interesting, almost manic depressive figure. In the spring of 2014 a  book about him and the career of Kingston Wall was released by Like (http://like.fi/kirjat/kingston-wall/). I cannot recommend it enough, though so far it is only in Finnish (Feb 2016).

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I (1992), II (1993) and III Tri-Logy (1994)

II, is generally considered the best album. I is a classic first album in a sense that it has a bunch of tracks from various time periods of the band. III incorporates elements of electronic music being clearly the weirdest and hardest to approach. At the time Walli was heavily influenced by his trips to India and Ior Bock’s Saga which pretty much based Finland as the centre of the world, spoke for the virtue of “save and not spill ones semen or female ejacula”, and based a lot for word alterations which were made to find the basis of the word (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ior_Bock#Outline_of_the_Bock_Saga + see the last song Alt – land – is on the bottom which explains the basics of this belief).

All 3 are solid albums but II is the Master of Puppets, Appetite for Destruction or Number of the beast of Kingston Wall.

Apparently Kingston Wall was a very tight live band. Biggest strength was to have a lot of variety, strong themes and a freedom to improvise combined with a lot of musicianship. They for example hosted their own “FreakOut” clubs were they did everything but stick to previously decided song lists.

Big part on why they are so good in the albums is that they played live for years before their first official recording. The bassist Jukka Jylli said that the tracks in their first album are just one versions of the songs. He did not even listen the album after its creation because he didn’t want to learn to play the tracks some certain way, there had to be freedom to improvise. They played only one gig outside of Finland (Tallinn).

Kingston Wall is not a classy, but ultimately hard to reach progressive rock band. They have a lot of psychedelia but also supremely catchy melodies and songs with easier structures. Their tracks are filled with hooks and catchiness. Never still losing the progressive edge and packing a lot of elements from Asian music. The way a hinterland Finnish band incorporates mysticism from Asia with hooks and instrumental proficiency is ludicrous really. But the tracks stay superbly interesting and the sounds are top notch for its time.

For me, Kingston Wall is easily better than any of the bands mentioned in the first paragraph. Strangely their biggest hits are also among their best. Here are few recommendations.

Jimi Hendrix cover – Fire (I, listen the drummer Sami Kuoppamäki go berserk, Petri Walli once said that “if Sami realized how good he is, his head would explode”).

We cannot move (II), one of their best and catchiest tunes with lots of Middle-Eastern influence.

A ballad Shine On Me (II):

If you want to start from a more difficult bit. Here is the The Real Thing (III), an 18 minute long opus:

Alt – land – is (III) – explains the basics of the odd mythlogy Bock’s Saga, which Walli used as the backbone of their album III Tri-Logy

Numen – Basque Black Metal

Like Catalonia, Basque Country has stated its interest in independence from Spain. I do not know whether Numen is one of those who wows for independence or not but a big attractor in their uniqueness is the Basque language, Euskera.

They could be described as oldschool black metal with folk influences and folks, THIS is how folk influences should be used. With the likes of Moonsorrow and Primordial Numen integrates folk to their sound without unnecessary hobbit-like dibbling and dabbling ’round the tree with beer cogs in hand. Folk is just one of the elements, not constant flute frenzy. Numen should even appeal to Black metal purists as their sound really takes a bow to oldschool black.

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The idea of Black metal from Basque country isn’t that far fetched for me. Pretty much my first touch to black metal was Numen. Which still to this date is among my favourite Black metal artists. I found Numen through long-defunct Audiogalaxy in about 2002(?). In Audiogalaxy groups it was normal for people to send tracks to everyone in that group. Numen is one of the many class acts I discovered that way.

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Their first EP Haize Sorginduen Intziriak (2000) (Screams of bewitched winds) never went to my regular listening cycle, except Ehitzari Beltza which was an instant favourite. I’m still not sure what it means, or how the hell it is pronounced what really stood out for me was the obscure sounding language. Not even mentioning the sound of a thunderbolt in the end and odd laughing at 3:04 both of which are such a cliche but then were awesome. Still, unlike some of my favourites from that time, the song is still decent and the harsh but beautiful language fits the mood perfectly.

495646300-galdutako-itxaropenaren-eresia-coverThe album that kicked off the Numen fever was their first full length Galdutako Itxaropenaren Eresia (2001) (Chant of the Lost Hope). It is still a strong effort with some really unique instrumentals. My personal favourites are Iheslaria which is both beautiful and brutal at the same time and the overly melodic Ama Lurra.

After Galdutako, Numen set the standard even higher with a good EP …Jarrai Beza 29785Kondairak (2003) and what many think is their best work, full-length Basoaren Semeak (2004). The most interesting piece of …Jarrai is Mari (Su Ta Gar Cover), it embraces the melodic aspects of Numen, being a cover of a heavy metal band. It is also an intriguing piece of history as Su Ta Gar is one of the most known Basque metal bands and also controversial. They’ve been around since the end of 1980s and released multiple albums.

45657Basoaren Semeak is a thick, haunting but natural sounding record which has obviously been influenced by a lot of Norwegian black metal greats. Its sounds are a huge step up from Galdutako… and the band developed in both song-writing and instrumental proficiency.

 

Their latest album is a self-titled album from 2007. Its sounds are not 174819as aggressive as Basoaren Semeak and the songs are longer and more complicated. There is a distinctive increase of epic, almost cinematic qualities, like the melancholic brilliance in the finale of Gauaren Irrifarre Izkutua which turns from standard but charmingly crooked black metal to a wonderful mixture of depressive black and clean acoustic guitar.

It is a pity that Numen has not released anything since as their discography is packed with quality. They seem to be still active as they have played gigs now and then.

It is also impressing that I can still spell stuff like Galdutako Itxaropenaren Eresia correctly!

You can find all their releases from bandcamp: http://numenblackmetal.bandcamp.com/

The only numen track in Spotify, Ahanzturaren Hilobia from their self-titled album: