On the Turntable – King Woman ‘Created In The Image of Suffering’

I think one of the best things about being part of the SGM fam is the freedom that we have, since we answer to no one but ourselves.  We are a group of women from all walks of life who join here to try to create something new and different, if such a thing is still possible.  We don’t allow advertising on our site, so we can post about anything, in any form, and that is something I genuinely cherish.  So in that stead, we thought it would be interesting to offer a couple of simultaneous posts.  Below you’ll find two reviews of the new King Woman album Created In The Image of Suffering.  I have teamed up with Pygopagus to offer our thoughts on this album, and we decided to showcase how far-ranging our opinions on it were, sort of a dueling pianos review. Check it out!

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Thalia Gore’s Review

It seems like every time I hear about a band lately, they are from the Bay Area.  I have yet to check out the scene, but I’ve definitely been meaning to stop by to check out some shows and see what the vibe is like over there.  The most recent SF band to come up on my radar is King Woman, as they have just released Created In The Image of Suffering on Relapse Records.  

I was excited to check out this album as soon as I heard of it’s impending release and the corresponding video for “Deny.”  This marks the debut full-length album from Kristina Esfandiari and the album is laced with her own personal demons lingering in the dark, hazy sound this trio creates.  

The album starts off with “Citious” the digital-only track that was an album bonus.  This track runs roughly one minute and slowly eases you into King Woman’s sound.  As the second track, “Utopia,” unfolds, you are suddenly wrapped in a gauzy and distorted doom womb.   

I like the fact that Esfandiari’s vocals are even with the music, not above it nor far below, creating a seamlessly woven balance. I really appreciate how haunting she can sound between the distortion and echoes.  Like she’s caught somewhere in the afterlife and is kind of okay with being there.

Sadly the album starts to lose me at “Hierophant,” at which point things start to feel too repetitive.  A chorus is sung one too many times or a riff harped on a little too often.  I think they have great potential and a genuinely unique sound, but I think come their next album they should delve a little deeper into the editing process.  Overall I think this is a great debut and I will be interested to see how their sound matures.

 

Pygopagus’s Review 

King Woman unveils their debut full-length album, Created In The Image of Suffering, and I hand the veil back. The first track, “Citios”, the digital only bonus track slaps you in the face with its cringe-worthy vibe of an angst riddled teen, with nothing to complain about, who just discovered how to make something “artistic” in Garageband. It didn’t feel like a bonus it’s more of warning for the quality of the rest of the album.

You often see the adjectives, “breathy, hypnotic and ethereal” thrown around when referencing female vocals with a similar, super on-trend vocal style. This album strikes me as a high school band trying their best to emulate Chelsea Wolfe for a Battle of the Bands in the high school gym. It’s contrived, from their look, the album name, the sound –  it’s all a little too on the nose to work or feel authentic. The vocals sound lifeless and without the effects and layering wouldn’t be record-worthy. The music itself is slow, repetitive and hugely uninspiring. I was particularly frustrated with the mixing of the record in relation to the snare drum. It’s so sharp that it’s jarring compared to the rest of the heavily sedated sounds.

As I listened through each track, hoping that I was nearing an amazing moment that would change things around, I got more anxious and frustrated by how unpolished the album is. The lyrical content, vocals and instrumentation is uncomfortably elementary. The hip thing that I would expect them to do is take all of their weaknesses and try to spin them into an intentional sound, but it’s not even possible, it’s just a fact that it is unpolished.

Debuting an album is a huge deal, and the work required to achieve it should be applauded. The courage to put yourself out there as an artist is fucking terrifying and in a sense I hate that I am that person who’s shitting all over it. But the reality is the only thing I like about King Woman is their name. This is an over-saturated market, and one that is blossoming with tremendous talent that transports you to a different place. In order to break into the scene and leave a mark they have to discover and embrace their own unique sound, because there is nothing unique about this album.

Least favorite track “Worn.” Say ‘break the bread’ one more time and see what happens.

Grab your copy from Relapse Records on CD or vinyl.

On the Turntable – Power Trip ‘Nightmare Logic’

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Power Trip is a band I wasn’t familiar with prior to hearing their second album Nightmare Logic, which will be released February 24th through Southern Lord.  I was instantly welcomed into the album with a wall of delicious distortion followed by what felt like stumbling into a wormhole that took me straight to an excitement and energy right out of none other than Metallica’s first studio record Kill ‘Em All.

The songs are short, exciting blasts of energy and aggression. This is a common format in this type of album, but often such short songs feel unpolished, rough or too meandering, like unfinished ideas. Power Trip’s great skill is their editing of their own work, which results in a gorgeous mix of classic metal, thrash and punk. As an added bonus, there are so many glorious guitar screams, the kind that I long for but can usually only find in fantasy metal!

Each band member is incredibly talented, and together they have created a much-needed throwback sound with a modern twist – it doesn’t seem like they are just cloning a sound that works. I am most impressed with the energy sustained throughout the album, it is consistent and combative and even more so it sounds like the makings of an incredible live show.

In my opinion, lyrics are something that many metal fans are too forgiving of, by implicitly not expecting much more than vague threats of violence and male chest pounding/dragon slaying/etc – but Nightmare Logic is not only refreshing in its sound, but also lyrically. The band provides us with anthem after anthem inspiring us to fight back against oppression. This genre is not normally my thing, but I cannot tell you how jazzed I am to have an album that serves as a great collection of songs with a purpose that couldn’t be more relevant!

Recommended Songs: The entire album from beginning to end

Grab your copy of Nightmare Logic on Southern Lord here.

Photo by Skc Photo

-Pygopagus-

On the Turntable – Trevor Shelley de Brauw ‘Uptown’

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When I first gave Trevor Shelley de Brauw’s new album Uptown a listen I was writing a letter to someone, trying to decide whether to lie to explain away my bad behavior or tell the truth and own up to my failings as a friend. The music lulled me into this dark battle of my personal code of ethics vs. my urge to simplify life with a tiny lie. Instead, the music led me to acknowledge my actions and feel a whole lot of feelings about the ordeal. Trevor’s got a gift, in that he created a very powerful soundscape that perfectly served as the soundtrack to my personal dilemma that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Trevor, who’s most recognized for his work as a guitarist in Pelican, created a small but valuable piece of art with this album. I had a brief moment of being unimpressed with the simplicity of the songs and overall length of the album, but I dismissed those thoughts instantly when I realized how much these droning impressionistic sounds were making me feel. I was caught off guard when I saw one track titled, “Turn Up For What.”  I was eagerly awaiting that track so I could figure out what was going to happen but again I was pleasantly surprised by its quiet strength.

Uptown is the result of ten years of work and marks Trevor’s first solo album. He has always been a force to be reckoned with, but this album transcends genre and gives him the added badge of artist. While that may sound vague, he creates something so simple yet so complex. Something that could be applied to so many different types of art and could work so beautifully as a layer to each. I think this needs to be scooped up to be the soundtrack of a short film asap, but who am I to push my own agenda on such a fantastic solo project.

I don’t think this is an album that should be listened to song by song, I would recommend buying the entire album and putting it on in the background and observing what happens next!

Grab your copy of Uptown from The Flenser here.

-Pygopagus-

On the Turntable – Black Anvil ‘As Was’

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When listening to Black Anvil’s new album As Was, the great Pablo Picasso quote “Good artists copy, great artists steal” comes to mind. The most notable difference in this case is that I would not be so bold as to call Black Anvil great artists, more so I can’t get past how much their signature style sounds like a mash up of 15-second clips from various popular metal sub-genres. Because of this, I found myself desperately trying to find something I liked in each song, and the shining light in the whole album for me is the consistent delivery of Paul Delaney’s vocals.

His voice has a beautiful grittiness, with a perfect amount of rasp that really honors the black metal heroes of the past. I can see how many will view As Was as an exciting new record that beautifully pays homage to the greats! I would highly recommend this album to someone who’s just getting into metal, as it offers such a variety of styles in each song. Everyone needs a band like this to help them hone in on what exactly they like about metal and to provide them with a starting point to deep dive into their preferred sub-genre(s).

In an interview with Deaf Sparrow, the band said, “…These people do not know us, do not know what we are about, at ALL. I don’t need to make anyone else happy with what this band does. It’s not about pleasing the listener. If you are pleased, then great. If not, go fuck yourself. We could easily be carbon copies of other bands, but we still write what we want based on our reaction. Not that we’re this original band, to me we are, in the grand scheme we’re not. I think real recognizes real in the end of the day”. From that I get that they are inspired by the process of creation more than the final product, in that the lyrical content and journey to create the album is more important than the audience’s reaction to it. I respect the hell out of that, because this album is their chance as artists to express themselves and who am I to harsh their buzz?

The album really picks up steam at the fifth song, “As An Elder Learned Anew.” This song was the first that told a story I felt invited to be a part of. As a listener I want to be transported to a different time and place. I want to go on the journey with the band and I would encourage them to explore how they can express themselves and speak their truth by showing, not telling.

Recommended Songs:
“On Forgotten Ways”
“As An Elder Learned Anew”
“Ultra”

Grab your copy of As Was on Relapse Records here.

Rolling photo by Lani Lee.

Pygopagus-

On the Turntable – Neurosis ‘Fires Within Fires’

Ayee, Neurosis fans — this one’s for you. Thirty years running, the post-metal pioneers have just released their 11th studio album, Fires Within Fires, on the band’s Neurot Recordings. Do not expect any crazy experimentation or deviation from their classic doom metal sound; this album, in a nutshell, is classic Neurosis.  The album is a true testament to the originality and skill of a band considered one of the first to ever combine hardcore/crust punk with atmospheric and psychedelic sounds, leading to the subgenre post-metal. While striking the band’s signature balance of light and dark, the album sounds completely relevant and up-to-date, despite their massive discography, and, dare I say, age? Fires Within Fires proves how experience and sheer talent can break down barriers of what could be exhausted sound and stretched-out creativity. These guys still have it — in fact, it seems as though they are only just beginning.

This forty-five minute LP is comprised of just five songs, each raining heavy with guitar, drums, and bass, creating a thick sound that carries effortlessly throughout the entire album. Pretty and mostly instrumental, the album relies greatly on chaotic guitar riffs to drive the sound forward. Mixed with the stomping beat of the drums, much of this record could be the soundtrack to some grand, mythological tale. The head-banging-fist-pumping guitars reflect back to the driving punk sound found in their earlier albums, especially in “Fire Is The End Lesson.” The pure, raw sound can be heavily attributed to the experienced and masterful ear of engineer Steve Albini. Nothing is overdone or overproduced on the album; you are in it with Neurosis from start to finish.

Speaking to Decibel magazine earlier this year, Neurosis vocalist/guitarist Steve Von Till describes his feelings about the band’s three-decade-long career: “We’re so fucking lucky, man. [We have] such gratitude for the brotherhood and the ability to be a part of this sound and this family.” Vocalist/guitarist Scott Kelly adds, in the same interview, “We approach everything as if it would be the last thing we do, and we’ve been very conscious of that, particularly over the last ten years. Because we realize that the longer you go, your odds decrease substantially.” Contrary to other of long-standing rock bands, which can sometimes sound outdated and irrelevant, Neurosis remains on top with this record. It is clear they will remain influential in the doom-metal scene, drawing in old and new fans alike.

-Tallulah-

On the Turntable – Helen Money ‘Become Zero’

The cello has no limits when Alison Chesley, also known by her stage name Helen Money, picks up the bow. Her new album Become Zero, out on Thrill Jockey, is an intricate expression of the pain and sadness one experiences after tragic heartbreak. In this particular case, the album was written after the death of her parents. Chesley tackles the mess of emotions associated with death and translates them into an elegant, dense soundscape. The record is incredibly personal, illustrating immense pain, sadness, and anger — all of which amount to Become Zero’s melancholic and dense sound. Drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis), pianist Rachel Grimes (Rachel’s), and collaborator and co-producer Will Thomas (who provides sound effects and samples) accompany her on the album. With their help Chesley vents, and we watch the storm build and dissipate.

The album starts with the song “Every Confidence,” which upon the first lull of the low, heavy cello, announces “I’m about to pour my heart and soul out, and you’re going to listen.” The lush dark tones create an atmospheric, ambient sound that feels more aligned with traditional black metal motifs of noise rock. This continues to build in “Become Zero,” the title track, and only seven minutes into the album, you are feeling Chesley’s anger.  There is a surprising nod to the classical notes of Bach in “Blood and Bone,” featuring a simple duet between piano and cello. This dark and emotional sound is therapeutic to the rest of the album, which teeters between an array complex of emotions. “Machine” is my personal favorite; the creative use of pedals gives the song a steady heartbeat, and the feeling is more light than dark. This peaceful, sedative state does not last long though, as agitation soon sets in again. The album ends strong and heavy, with songs “Leviathon” and “Facing the Sun.” Chesley’s ability to distort her instrument is a testament to her power as a musician, but also to how music can heal one’s sorrows.

Chesley is not a simple composer. In her experiments with her instrument, she modifies, amplifies, and truly twists what the cello is capable of. The blending of classical elements with more modern noise sounds creates a stellar, melancholic sympathy of pain, sadness, and most of all, the acceptance of death as a part of life. She does not shrink to zero, but instead, rises proud from the ashes as the product of what her parents left behind.

Become Zero is available now on Thrill Jockey.

-Tallulah-

On the Turntable – Myrkur ‘Mausoleum’

The best music is often heard at live shows, yet most live recordings leave me yearning for studio versions of the songs. It’s not for lack of effort; it’s nearly impossible to capture the special magic between artist and listener that occurs in the sacred show space. Few live albums have ever mastered this (Nirvana Unplugged, The Allman Brothers Band Live At the Fillmore East). However, Mausoleum, the latest creation of Danish composer MYRKUR, can now sit on the list of greats – certainly not at number one, but definitely a stellar live record.

Mausoleum is a stripped-down version of Amalie Bruun’s (MYRKUR) debut album, M. There’s no scraping guitar or distorted feedback – just Bruun’s ethereal voice accompanied by piano, acoustic guitar, and the mystical Norwegian Girls Choir. The album was recorded in the historic Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum, dimly lit by burning candles for the performance. Surrounded by dramatically morbid murals, Bruun’s soprano voice echoes through the cavernous space and illustrates her musical power. As a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer (yes, she is all of those things) any flack or skepticism she may receive for being a one-woman black metal band dissipates with this album. The eerie, yet wonderfully dense collection of nine songs teeters between spiritual and sadistic. The melodies sound like rituals that have been performed for hundreds of years, and Bruun is the captivating, mystical folk legend leading it all.

The word ‘myrkur’ simply means darkness in Icelandic, however, Bruun’s music is far from one-dimensional. Her voice packs a mean punch; it’s delicate yet strong, and always hauntingly beautiful. Her influences stem from nature, Scandinavian folklore, and Norse mythology. Bruun states “I always dreamed about becoming a Huldra, an Elver girl, a Valkyrie, the goddess Freja. These powerful women in Norse Mythology have an element of beauty and mystique, but they are also deadly.” We must commend Bruun for achieving this transformation in Masoleum. While putting her spin on the genre, she is clearly very knowledgeable about the history of black metal. Norway has a strong black metal community, so Oslo was the perfect geographic choice for recording (the ancient tomb was also a nice touch). That said, recording in a mausoleum is simply a choice of setting – doing it well is what makes Bruun’s voice one to be heard. In the male-dominated world of music, it becomes all too easy for a pretty face to be associated with a marketing play. Bruun’s unique perspective and ability to bring her cryptic vision to life (yet again!) will continue to redefine and shape black metal music, as well as, most importantly, inspire more female artists to step forward.

Mausoleum was released on August 18th, 2016 by Relapse Records.

-Tallulah-