2012-11-28

Guess the band?

It's as simple as that. Guess the band.
Figure them all out and write it in the comment-section. As a reward, I will mention your name somewhere in the future. Amazing huh!? Shouldn't be too hard either.

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10. 









11. 

2012-11-27

Graphic booklet and CD-mysteries, part 3. (D-E)

So this is basically where I go through my own CD-collection and take some photos of stuff that I consider weird, ugly, beautiful or just has to be dissected in one way or the other. I will try to focus more on the actual booklets, because there are tons of lists out there with just ugly album covers (although that's certain come up here as well). In other words, there wont be any vinyl-albums discussed here, nor will there be anything from In Flames or Opeth, because I don't own albums by those bands. I will more or less go through CD's random and see if there's anything interesting to be said about them.
Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Let us begin with the swansong of Swedish death-thrashers Defleshed - namely the cover of "Reclaim the Beat". I read in some old interview when this album was just out, that one of the members (either guitarist Lars or vocalist/bassist Gustaf) was really impressed with the cover and described how he took a photo of some statue, but changed the colors to red in Photoshop so that it looked like the statue was hammering on something and the blood splashing all over.
Honestly, it really doesn't look that impressive dear Lars or Gustaf. Perhaps if you were skilled enough to change only the color of the water I would have raised an eyebrow or two. But even then, everyone can clearly see - despite it being red - that it is water, due to all the foam and stuff. The end result is just a very random cover that looks like if it's been released on Invasion Records. Oh wait, Defleshed actually was contracted to the infamous label once. Just look at the cover for their debut album if you don't believe me.

Next up, is some unknown band called Detriment. And no, I have absolutely no idea how their album "Surreal" found it's way into my CD-collection. I can't remember ever having heard the music, but let's be honest here - who in their right minds would actually want to listen to the music featured on a disc that looks like this?

It's a mish-mash of horrendous graphics (the skull, oh my god! The skull!) and a myriad of different fonts. Basically a prime example exactly on how not to do album designs. But I am very curious to know just how much design work this Devilbitch did after this one? I'm suspecting that he or she or the company didn't get that many job-offers after this one.

I really couldn't go through the D-section of my CD-collection without mentioning a single word about Dimmu Borgir, right? True, although there weren't as much to say about them as I first thought. But there is this one picture from "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" (1997) that I've always found really amusing.
It's like one of the guys suddenly thought; "Hey, there's five points to a pentagram and we are five guys in the band - let's do something with that!" And the end result is a classic corpse-painted mistake of colossal proportions. Still, if I turn my thoughts around the other way, there's something really heartfelt about this picture in a certain sense. I mean, I can't be the only one that actually misses classic mid-90's-Photoshop stuff like this?

Just like their British counterpart Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir at many points in their career chose to have a single photo of each band member (stating their name and occupation in the band) in their booklets. This is something that I really enjoy and in Dimmu Borgir's defense, I must say that I also enjoy their consistency of graphic design - just as the case was with Cradle of Filth. But the Filth actually did their job better than Dimmu (and not just in the graphic, but the music as well) which I really feel mirrors in the photos below.
Yeah, you can say what you want about the deformed arm holding Shagrath's head and what mushrooms they must have consumed whilst choosing the color of Silenoz' bathrobe. That's all passable in my opinion. What I find something to be an inconsistency in their graphic work is that each member has a little photo like this in the booklet of "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" (2001). Apart from these two, we also see Galder burning an angel, Mustis with a snake-face and Vortex with another guy coming out of his chest(!). And there's the case with the photo of drummer Nicholas Barker.
I'm sure that most Dimmu Borgir-fans are quite aware of the fact that the band's line-up at this time consisted of 5 guys living in Norway and one - namely Nicholas - residing in England. And is that the sole reason as to why nothing out of the ordinary happens in the "personal photo" of the drummer? I believe so. And when I take a closer look, I notice that the photo of Nicholas here actually is a crop-out of the only entire bandphoto there is the booklet. Hilarious! Couldn't they at least have Photoshopped something out of the ordinary in this photo? Apart from changing the background to a garage door that is...

So, apart from this boring (and very bad I might add) photo from a totally unreadable lyric in the booklet of Empyrium's "Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays" (1999) - that's all I have to offer this time. Hope you guys still follow this section of my blog. Cheers!

2012-11-20

Review: Shining - Redefining Darkness


Band: Shining
Album: "Redefining Darkness"
Style: Depressive Rock/Black Metal
Release date: 2012-10-29
Origin: Sweden

Tracklist:
1. Du, Mitt Konstverk
2. The Ghastly Silence
3. Han som Hatar Människan
4. Hail Darkness Hail
5. Det Stora Grå
6. For the God Below


We don't really have the best of relationships, Shining and I. For every album they've released, I've always managed to find one or two good songs, at max. The rest have felt like fillers and it has always annoyed me that mainman Niklas Kvarforth always insists on having only 6 tracks on each album, making them painstakingly long at some points. Sometimes it has worked, but for the most it has been more filler in my ears. Well that's all in the past now...

For you see, even if this album might not exactly redefine darkness, it is a damn good effort by this Swedish band and easily the best and most consistent album since "V - Halmstad" (2007). First off, the rhythm section is really astounding. Drummer Ludvig Witt has a real good groove that I have missed on some earlier albums and bassist Christian Larsson really nails his parts. It's also nice to hear a production that for once let's the bass guitar be heard properly. To think that the old racist Jan Axel "Hellhammer" Blomberg used to play drum for this band is a weird thought if one listens to how they sound today and how one-dimensional that guy is.
Vocally, everything is good as Niklas does what we're used to; whisperings, half-hearted clean singing (which just sounds better and better) and those insane screams - bordering on psychopath.
Niklas Kvarforth, 2012
When I read through my notes that I wrote after just having heard the album two times, I realized how much impact this album has had on me after a couple of more listens. Because, at first I wrote; "But the problem is, we've all heard this before" - which is not necessarily true. Sure, there are parts that sound most Shining indeed, but that's just the sound of an established comfort-sound-zone to my ears. What Niklas have done, is to really redefine his songwriting. The songs are still quite long and I still question why the man insists on this 6-track maximum on each album.
There are also some subtle things that really sticks out, such as the outro to "Du, Mitt Konstverk" and the incredible saxophone in "The Ghastly Silence". Overall, I would say that the tempo is quite slow on the entire album and there are lots of places in the music where I just can relax and actually feel quite good. I kind of doubt that this was Niklas intention, but to me, "Redefining Darkness" might ironically be the band's "lightest" album so far, and I mean that in a really positive way. But of course, there are some parts that really makes the listener shrug and feel somewhat uneasy - also in a positive way.
Then we have the usual uptempo pop-black metal song - in this case "Han som Hatar Människan" - which I usually find to be the strongest song on a Shining-album. But this time around, I really find myself enjoying most of the songs and each of their intricate parts, since the songs themselves always change a lot. In conclusion, "Redefining Darkness" is most definitely an album that is meant to be listened to thoroughly -  do not try to pick a song at random and try to enjoy it - it doesn't work that way. Of course, there's the usual instrumental piece - "Det Stora Grå" which actually adds very little, although it doesn't destroy the flow of the album either.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that Niklas would hate my review if he ever read it, but I stand by my words. There is a flow throughout the entire album that I've missed on previous albums and I can just congratulate the man in creating Shining's most thought-through and mature album to date.

RATING: 
8/10


2012-11-15

Graphic booklet and CD-mysteries, part 2. (B-C)

So this is basically where I go through my own CD-collection and take some photos of stuff that I consider weird, ugly, beautiful or just has to be dissected in one way or the other. I will try to focus more on the actual booklets, because there are tons of lists out there with just ugly album covers (although that's certain come up here as well). In other words, there wont be any vinyl-albums discussed here, nor will there be anything from In Flames or Opeth, because I don't own albums by those bands. I will more or less go through CD's random and see if there's anything interesting to be said about them.
Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Ok, so here we go again - time for B-C.
First off, I found "The Olden Domain" (1997) by Borknagar in my CD-collection. A damn good record, but my oh my is this a complete graphic wreck or what. From the horrendous background to the cryptic front and all the way to that damn gnarled tree on the cover, there's absolutely nothing beautiful whatsoever about this. I really think I needn't say more.
I also own this on a picture-disc and there's a reason it's not mounted on my living-room wall...
Furthermore, it's not like Borknagar's layouts or covers got any better by time either. "The Archaic Course" (1998) basically suffers from the same as the layout above, and when new drummer Asgeir Mickelsen took over the graphic duties, the band got stuck in an obscure millennium-graphic state of mind. The covers to "Quintessence" (2000) and "Empiricism" (2001) aren't exactly something I'd hang in my Christmas tree, if you get my point. Only on the latest releases "Universal" (2010) and "Urd" (2012) are we greeted with something decent.

And what's up with labels who obviously doesn't care shit about how the albums actually look like? I mean, here we have a classic band like Candlemass and it's a re-release of their iconic debut album "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" were talking about. You would even think that perhaps the label-people would put a little extra effort into what they do right? But no. They were obviously in a hurry when they did this re-design which resulted in the back of the album turned in the wrong direction.
Yeah, I know that this might not be a major issue, but for someone who is as anal as I am when it comes to my CD-collection, this is a unnecessary problem that easily could have been avoided. Now I have to put the album upside-down in my shelf. Annoying, and as I said; unnecessary.

Now it's time to actually do give some praise as I finally have something positive to say. You can say whatever you want about the music of Cradle of Filth and the midget that fronts the band, but they've always been very consistent when it comes to the layouts of their albums. At least when it comes to those albums ranging from their debut "The Principle of Evil Made Flesh" (1994) and all the way up to "Midian" (2000) which are the albums I own by the band. Below are some examples from "Vempire" and "Dusk and Her Embrace" (both 1996).
Sure, most photos of the band members are corny and almost embarresing in their own way, but I really adore the consistency and the effort that is always put into the booklets. From imagery to fonts and thank-you-lists - here we have some prime examples on how to work with design. And many of these were done before the new millennium mind you. And sure, you may not enjoy their overall imagery and/or hate their album covers, but that doesn't take away the effort that's been put into it. Kudos to the Filth!

I actually thought there would be more to dissect from the letters B to C in my collection, but there really wasn't. I couldn't find anything in particular to say about neither Bad Religion, Bay Laurel, Biohazard, Blodsrit, Bloodbath, Cathedral, Celestial Season, Clawfinger nor Cronian. But then I discovered something disturbing. Something I didn't even know what it was at first. Something so sinister, ugly and rotten that I've chosen to completely forget about it's existence...

I hereby give you Cult Disciples and their album "Hang by the Cross" (1997). It might be one of the worst albums I've ever heard and I am utterly ashamed to now, for the first time, acknowledge that I own this. In my defense, I actually got this as a "bonus" when I bought some album (can't remember which one, but I think it was something with Samael) from a guy online (from some Swedish equivalent to Ebay). Yeah, bonus my ass! This guy was very happy to be rid of this album for sure.
Anyway, it's a Swedish band, hailing from the same city where I currently live, and now, thankfully disbanded. Everything from the band name to the album title (sounds like a couple of guys hanging out by some cross and drinking beer) to some of the song titles ("The Hate I Have", ""Jesus Meets Pizzaman", "Cyberface", "Confronting Simon") reeks of horse-manure. The band obviously holds a certain King Diamond and Mercyful Fate as gods in their world (Borknagar-pun intended), but this is more like a fifth-rate kindergarten-band with juvenile lyrics and a musical performance that leaves a lot to be desired.
Sure the album cover is by far not the worst I've seen, but there's something that's very disturbing with the entire package. The font is some sort of faux-Old English (without caps though!) and the entire thing looks very homemade. As I open up the casing (for the second time in my life) my eyes are averted by the horror that lurks inside.
This is very 1997 to say the least. The font on the actual disc is hilarious but that's nothing compared to the inverted band photo with the poor emo-guy that hangs from... - wait for it - a cross! And what's the deal with the rectangular picture with the hands touching something that I suppose should look like a heart? But it inside that the real deal begins.
They stick to the same font everywhere on the booklet which is real headache-indulging to say the least. But what I really love is the fact that every member has it's own page with a photo, some "mystic and occult" symbol on each side of the photo and it's own headline and thank-you-list. Yeah, this sort of thing works when you're band is Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir and you actually have a lot of fans. But when it's your debut album (and they thankfully spared the world from more) and your fans probably consists of your friends and family members, it only looks ridiculous. This above is the main guy whose responsible for most of the "lyrics" and "music" and of course goes by the astonishing alias of Ritchie La Roux (oh, I wonder who his guitar-idol might be?).
Some of the members even have a "No thanks to-list" which is hilarious in it's own. That each member, except mr. Ritchie La Roux (haha, I cannot stop laughing at that name), looks like they might be 18 or 19 years old and have aliases such as Deomgorgon Bilé and Mephistopheles only adds to the unintentional humor. The band also recommends books "for great reading", which happens to be "The Satanic Bible" by Anton La Vey and "Book of the Law" by Aleister Crowley - wow what a surprise!
I should probably have added more photos from the booklet, but this is something that you actually have to have a physical copy and flip through it to understand the magnitude of it all. It feels like a print-out of a webpage that very well might have been online back in 1997. For that reason alone, I wont throw this album away. I will never, ever listen to it again though.
I now wish to end Part 2 with the very last quote from Cult Disciples' amazing booklet:

"No thanks to the false! Burzum, Dark Funeral, Marduk
And all of you who wanna be like them:
Fuck You !!!"

Fantastic! But I wonder why they chose these particular bands. One Norweigan and two Swedish black metal bands. Why not include Mayhem, Satyricon, Emperor or Darkthrone in the list? I am truly curious about this. But anyway, doo yourselves a favor and check out this band on Metal Archives.

2012-11-14

Graphic booklet and CD-mysteries, part 1. (0-A)

I though it was time for a new section here on Metal Monuments and because of a serious lack of imagination, this section will just be called "Graphic booklet and CD-mysteries" even though there might not be any real mysteries all times.
So this is basically where I go through my own CD-collection and take some photos of stuff that I consider weird, ugly, beautiful or just has to be dissected in one way or the other. I will try to focus more on the actual booklets, because there are tons of lists out there with just ugly album covers (although that's certain come up here as well). In other words, there wont be any vinyl-albums discussed here, nor will there be anything from In Flames or Opeth, because I don't own albums by those bands. I will more or less go through CD's random and see if there's anything interesting to be said about them.
I have a feeling these posts are going to be really looong (and graphically heavy) so I will divide it into smaller parts. First up we have part 0-A, which will be followed by B-C and so on. Not that difficult to understand is it?
Oh, and be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them. And if you feel you should need further instructions, please click here.

First off, there have always been problems when it comes to deciphering the lyrics in booklets that we're printed before the new millennium. Some bands badly wanted to have a certain color on their font (which of course either was printed in Old English or some pseudo-gothic crap font such as Adine Kirnberg or something similar. Ok, so the picture below might not be of the best quality, but it's not very far from how the actual booklet looks. Do me a favor and try to read the lyrics that were so cleverly printed on top of the band-photos (with lots of white spaces and branches to interfere) to 3rd & the Mortal's debut album "Tears Laid in Earth" (1994).
Not that easy is it? Also, why is it that almost each and every band from Norway has to have at least one band member called Rune? Is it a mandatory rule or something? It's like every second man from Gothenburg is named Glenn god damn it...

And while, we're on the subject of 3rd & the Mortal, a certain something in the thank-you-list - or in this case, the "deeply respects"-list - made me raise an eyebrow or two.
Is that a sexual remark? I'm speechless...
So you would think that things changed once the new millennium arrived and every retard with a computer could easily get a hold of Photoshop? Well, not quite. Sure, the problems that we saw in the example above might have been reduced, but it's still there. But instead we got a new problem - namely that so many bands felt that they could be more artsy with this "new" technology and really space things out.
Well, here's what I think; When people start buying less and less physical copies of your albums, don't start fucking out with the layout and stuff. Instead, really make an effort and include everything from lyrics to liner notes and thank-you-lists. Because I think I speak for all of us that still buy CD's when I say that that's what we actually want from a physical copy. Not just two sheets of paper, undecipherable lyrics and close-up pictures of instruments dammit!
A good example of unreadable lyrics due to this "artsy-fartsy madness" can be found on almost any of the latter albums from Anathema. Here's a choice cut from "A Fine Day to Exit" (2001):
"We've just handwritten some parts of the lyrics to seem more special and to really show that we distance ourselves from the metal-genre alltogether". Yeah, way to go dudes! Sigh...

And don't get me started on black metal-booklets. The preferred font for the lyrics here is of course Old English, preferably written in all capitals so that it's near impossible to read anything. Or you could do like Shamataee of Arckanum and write it in some home-made fashion. And then add the fact that all of his lyrics are either written in old-Swedish or some weird combo of Swedish and Icelandic and we really have a problem. The example below is from "Fran Marder" (1995).

So let us leave the unreadable-lyric-section for a while and go further into some booklet and CD-mysteries. But let's not leave Anathema just yet. The band had both decent and really good covers up till "Alternative 4" (1998) when all things went to hell. Sure, the band changed direction musically and I guess that they wanted to show that graphically as well. While the idea for a combination of an astronaut/angel figure on the front wasn't a bad idea in theory - the result is a disaster of colossal properties:
But it wasn't really the cover that I wanted to dissect here. Inside, the booklet is really scarce and saved from overused graphical content. The album is really stripped down compared to earlier releases and that direction really fits the booklet as well. But I wonder exactly what went through the member's heads when they decided to use this picture in the booklet:
Honestly - couldn't this band member at least have shaved properly before taking an extreme close-up photograph of the man's face!? The picture is beyond disgusting, yet my eyes are always drawn to those two lonely mustache-threads just hanging there, each time I flip through the booklet.

Moving on to something completely different. We're still dealing with Anathema, but this time the blame is entirely on the record company. You see, I happen to own the copy of "Serenades" (1993) that includes "The Crestfallen EP" (1992) as well. And that is something that Music for Nations never lets me forget each time I pick up the album.
Now, I happen to belong to the group that absolutely adores the original cover to "Serenades". I think it's a real piece of art - honestly! But then Music for Nations did this fucking thing! Nowadays, the record companies usually puts a sticker or something like that on the actual casing. But not this time, no... Instead they decided to print this wonderful message ON the actual booklet. Stupid if I've ever seen it.

Now it is time to move along to the section that I'd like to call "computerized-millennium crap" (or something like that). You know, when bands feel like it's time to "space out" things and make as much unnecessary graphics which as much colors and crap on it as possible. Arcturus are notorious for this. The covers and booklets for "La Masquerade Infernale" (1997) and "Sideshow Symphonies" (2005) were alright, but the rest is pure horror to the eyes.
First out is the re-issue of the band's debut album "Aspera Hiems Symfonia" (1995) which have been "upgraded" with the EP's "My Angel" (1991) and "Constellation" (1994). The actual CD is one of the ugliest things I've seen, but what I really am most confused about is the deal with two CD's.
I mean, there's 8 songs on the first CD - but the names of all 3 albums written on it - and then we have track 9-16 on the second one. What's up with that? Why not write the title of the first actual album on the first CD and then write "Constellation & My Angel" on the second one? Also, what's the point of including track 12 at all? I mean, it actually says on the tracklist that it's them same as track 2, but with a different title. Just because it was originally called "Icebound Streams and Vapours Grey"? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

And then let's look at this piece of "art" from "The Sham Mirrors" (2002). I honestly ask what the point of it all is? Of course one has to fill a booklet and not all graphics might be "necessary" so to speak. But this is just bordering on the retarded. 
Three pages of absolutely nothing? You bet!
And the sad part is that basically the entire booklet of their awful remix-album "Disguised Masters" (1999) pretty much looks the same but with more white added to the mix.

Okay, so that became a little more than I originally had thought. Not sure if it's an interesting/funny read either. Please comment if you think that this entire thing was a big fail on my part. If not, the next time I will be going through B and C in my CD-collection. I'm sure there will be some Borknagar-breakdowns and some Candlemass-craziness.