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CD Reviews


New Music

reviews by Jennifer Nastri

Judgement Day
Peacocks/Pink Monsters

Let me just start off by saying I love Judgement Day’s casing for their upcoming album “Peacocks/Pink Monsters”. The album comes tucked in a small book that showcases the cover art and band photos (perhaps not in the most green way) in an eye catching and different manner than your standard jewel case. Hey, I’m a girl and I’m a sucker for a pretty, creative, polished package. I will say that I don’t know if they intentionally misspelled the name of their band, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt (which I rarely do, most people are just stupid) and hope that they know there is no “e” in Judgment Day. For this review I again turned to my good friend Cole, mainly because Judgement Day and he both share an affinity for Tool (what is with everyone wanting to sound like Tool?) and Pelican, two bands I’m familiar with but not overly. JD also has toured with sludge/stoner metal darlings Torche, prog rockers dredg, and the indie pop Black Kids. I thought it’d be good to get 2 perspectives, one from someone who is a fan of and more acquainted with this genre. Cole listened to mostly earlier JD releases (available on their MySpace page and official website (stringmetal.com/judgementday) while I listened to their upcoming release “Peacocks/Pink Monsters”.

Beginning at the beginning with their previous material Cole first listened to”Introduction” — an ominous, brooding piece that made me think “here we have yet another band pursuing the “post-rock” sound that Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky made popular”. Not necessarily original, for sure, but heading in the right direction for movie scores and the like. Then, their next batch of songs began to play. They are mostly faster tempo songs with Classical-tinged “breakdowns” — Apocalyptica comes to mind, and is the closest comparison. Metallica being played on non-rock string instruments. Hurray. At times, they remind me of Russian Circles, only with a cello and violin rather than bass and guitar. Oh, and sans the looping that allows RC to layer guitar riffs into something above mediocre, and as far as past outings “Inferno” is their best example of where they could be going.
So where did they go from there? I too listened to some of there earlier outings and I do think the band has grown since “Inferno” and their first album “Dark Opus”. “Peacocks/Pink Monsters” is a progression from a group of talented classically trained musicians trying to elaborate on and maybe even define a subgenre of a subgenre. Instead of being Sigur Ros and playing a guitar with a bow they use chugging-ish riffs replete with guitar solos mimicked on the violin. I also tend to believe that if they were playing your standard rock instruments I’d be unimpressed. However they’re not, and though they may not be bringing anything earth shattering or new to the table, they play with purpose and feeling and on this, their fifth release they are acquainted with what they want to do, the sound they want to generate and the music they want to make.
Judgement Day provided me with suggested tracks to listen to but I found I liked the ones they didn’t offer up the most. From the beginning strains of track 7 “Barrage” with the kinda flange-y echo (my fave) to the repetitions I felt like I was in a barrage, being attacked with heavy (but not heavy for the sake of being heavy…if that makes any sense) thoughtfully constructed riffs that built on each other, growing by means of continuance with just a little bit of a sci fi video game-y sound. But good video-game-y.
Track 9 “The Constant” (delegated as a “focus track”) is another science fiction sounding track with quiet drums allowing the deep tones of the cello and sweeter, lighter sounds of the violin to play off of the computer generated sounds floating through the song. Next comes another repetition heavy opening on the track “Excelsior” (I honestly thought I was the only person to use that word). The more I listen to JD the more I think stoner rock. Yeah, yeah it’s “string metal” and that’s the genre they’re trying to create a niche for themselves in and that’s all fine and good, but as far as basic song composition there are undertones of psych and stoner rock layered beneath all those strings.
JD definitely has “Progressive” leanings — they are certainly more progressive than most in riffage/instrumentation and songwriting. Though they may perceive themselves as having one foot in classical and one foot in contemporary music (as Cole says “I suppose anyone can call themselves “Classical” if they’re using non-standard rock instruments”) the song structures are mostly of the hard rock variety with soliloquies of classical pieces added here and there. Track 11 for example, “Improvisation” (yes, another “focus track”). The low mournful violin gives this song a more “classical” feel, though it’s layered over string picking and eventual drums. The drums in “Improvisation” are at times piecemeal, at times cadence like which alternately add and detract from the traditional classical style. There are no long movements and no weighted passages that one would expect to hear in true Classical music.
The album ends with “Genosha” and I will say I think the album could’ve ended with a stronger song. The drums were flat and boring and after an album full of what these musicians are capable of I wanted to be left blown away. The riff at 2:13 almost made me change my mind but in the end it wasn’t redeeming enough to make the entire song great. Kinda showboat-y and unmoving for an end track to an album as epic as JD wants this to be.
Cole’s final judgment of Judgment Day is more critical than mine as would be expected as he is more of their target audience. In his opinion JD “are not the worst band nor have they created the worst songs I’ve ever heard — but I think they need to take better advantage of their talents and give us something that’s a bit more inspired”. As for me, I agree to a point. With their talents JD can perhaps broaden their audience to more than tech-geeks, metal nerds, and classical music followers that are looking for something different and more modern but still appeals to their general music taste. I imagine they’re intense and amazing live, if for no other reason than the novelty of seeing a cellist and violinist play to a room full of heshers and moshers, and for that alone I’d pay admission. JD is trying to be something different in a sea full of the same, all the while using their music writing and ability. And because they are true artists with actual talent, discipline and drive they deserve to be listened to, and for many of you it’ll be the closest you’ll ever get to attending a symphony.

Oblivion
2-song EP

The note that “Oblivion” included with their 2 song EP states that they aim to sound like “a punk rock Tool, but it comes off as a psychedelic Nirvana”. I will give them this much, they do call to mind a “tool” but not in the way they meant. The last sentence of the note suggests that the CD be used as “a memento that reminds you that perhaps Nietzsche was correct, and God is dead, for no loving Father would allow such an auditory abortion to exist. Just sayin”. To that all I have to say is are you fucking kidding me? First of all I’m so sick of people throwing Friedrich Nietzsche around with no more information on him than he said “God is dead” 150 years ago. Just stop it. Just. Stop. You are doing a disservice to him and yourself. You are not a nihilist, you are not a perspectivist, you are not an Ubermensch. And if you are you should be ashamed that this is the art you’ve created. As far as no loving father allowing such music to exist, I will agree there. Though again, not in the manner I’m sure was intended.
Lest not you think I’m being snap in my judgments I also gave this cd (and the other album I’m reviewing) to a friend to listen to as well, a friend of mine who has been making his own music for more years than the members of Oblivion have been drinking out of big boy cups and is well versed in the bands that Oblivion lists as influential to their sound. Oblivion categorizes themselves as “punk/rock/progressive”, and both of our reactions were the same. Uhhh Progressive? To quote my fellow reviewer, Cole “I hear nothing in their music that can be described as such. There are no available even remote comparisons to King Crimson or Yes or even modern day versions of such bands as Tool or Meshuggah in their current litany of songs. If you are to use the term loosely (progressive = intelligent… Radiohead, for example)… there are no possibilities there, either”. Sorry kids, but I have to agree. The best way I can describe the two songs on this EP, “Lotus” and “My Jar” are watered down Nirvana, and I hesitate to even do that, because that does a great injustice to an even greater band.
“Lotus” starts off with a line of lyrics before very predictable and boring 4/4 beat kicks merged with faux angst-y yells in the chorus “Happiness/Happyness”. There is zero feeling behind the vocals whatsoever and everything just feels flat. The bassline repeated at 2:14 shows just how much this band is trying (in vain) to channel Nirvana (and not in a “psychedelic” way either…I’m wondering if they know what that word really means) from the pitch of the singer’s voice to the 2 or 4 chord “grunge” sound. What is sorely lacking is any kind of emotion, unless ennui counts, and in “punk” rock, or even rock in general, it doesn’t. Cole succintly breaks it down like this:
…this band is a prime example of why all bands should be forced to stop using industry labels/terms to describe themselves. The three genre-specific words found on their myspace page: “Rock / Punk / Progressive” might actually be enough to convince unsuspecting and curious would-be listeners that they’ve actually come across a band that really tries to incorporate the disparate elements of their supposed influences (“Tool. John Denver/Gordon Lightfoot. Black Flag. Creedence Clearwater Revival (tapes only). REM. Fugazi… Hammerhead. The Cramps. Autonomy (philosophy and the band). Bad Religion (80-85). Meshuggah”) into their own cohesive sound — which is what any good modern band does. But Oblivion misses the point. They also cleverly(?) omit the one band that they do owe their sound to. If I heard the Black Flag and Tool mixture… or even some REM or Fugazi in their tunes, I might think that they aren’t where they want to be yet but might be heading down the right path — but, no. Their songs disappoint, one after the next.

I concur.
Punk: faster tempos do not equal punk. I wish I could get that notion into the thick skulls of the rest of the Green Day-worshipping public, but, as I cannot and it would be an obvious waste of time to try to explain to these guys why they are not ‘punk’, I’ll let them pass in that they do throw upbeat three-chord progressions around from time to time which, again, brings to mind the faster moments of Nirvana. So if you accept that as punk, then I suppose it can be said that they have a “punk” sound.” Did you get that guys? Are you writing this down?
The song “My Jar” tries so hard to be “punk” but falls short of the mark. Very short. It wants to be “Territorial Pissings” with the breakdown at 1:47 but here’s a tip…pop and “angst” DO NOT go together. Like, ever. This is “faking it” and no one likes it when you fake it. Hop a few trains, have a few real problems in your life, struggle with your inner demons (if you have any), really read some Nietzsche and think about existentialism and what it means, LIVE life a little. Maybe then Oblivion will have a more authentic and less emotionally devoid sound. Or just get a job in the business sector and give it up, become a cog in the machine you hate so much man…the machine you hate cuz your full of so much anger and distrust at the establishment! I kid, I kid. If you had any of those generic feelings than I would hear it in your generic music, and I don’t.
Cole and I generally don’t agree in our tastes in music, but we know crap when it comes our way, and we had to pull over it was so in our way. In his opinion Oblivion should just call themselves “Grunge 3.0”, list their sole influence as Nirvana, shamelessly promote themselves in that very fashion, and keep the semblance of any mystery to themselves. At least then those folks who like watered-down Kurt Cobain worship would find what they’re after. I must say I wholeheartedly agree but take if you still wanna play music I say bill yourselves as a Nirvana cover band. At least then you’ll be playing songs that are good, that aren’t yawn-inducing predictable 4/4 melodies and that were written from a real place with real feeling. Not because your mom forgot to bring you your juice box when she picked you up from soccer practice or because you could’t get your hair to swoop right for your profile pic. Those are the kind of problems I hear when I listen to Oblivion. Thanks for the coaster guys.

~JN

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