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Old 12-09-2018, 02:21 PM   #201 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by MicShazam View Post
I haven't forgotten about that Frownland album. It's just that I hate listening to it, so it's a slow process trying to get any kind of grasp on it.
I gave you a less accessible one to try to challenge you. It's my most digestible inaccessible records though, since some of them are 2-3 hours long.
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Old 12-09-2018, 02:23 PM   #202 (permalink)
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I gave you a less accessible one to try to challenge you. It's my most digestible inaccessible records though, since some of them are 2-3 hours long.
I do dig the sound quality at least. There's a very nice feeling of the sounds being placed in a space and the character of each sound is clear and full of character. It's the compositions I'm struggling with, so to speak.
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Old 12-12-2018, 03:59 PM   #203 (permalink)
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Default Reviewing my own complete discography...

After uploading the last of my albums to Youtube earlier today, I started listening through my own albums chronologically. I had all sorts of mixed feelings listening to these again, so I wanted to write a sort of mini review for each album.

Spoiler for Planetary - Distant Stars (2009):
My first album! All written in Reality Adlib Tracker in MS-DOS over a range of many years. This means that the album is very varied in style. This one still holds up for me, plus the personal nostalgia factor is huge.
100%
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Spoiler for Music In Green (2011):
Tried to get used to Open MPT, which would become my preferred music tracker moving forward. I think there's a weird sort of thrash metal influence here, but the songs are basic electronic wank that is mostly interesting in the more busy mid sections. Those opening groovy segments of each song... kinda dull. But I love those crazy mid sections.
50%
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Spoiler for Stray (2012):
Like a second try on an album like the one before, but this time it's got more atmosphere, sounds less derpy and the 6 tracks are very different from each other. One of my personal faves.
90%
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Spoiler for Sanguine (2013):
Pretty varied. Jumps wildly up and down in quality over 11 tracks or so. Some favorites
here and some cringey stuff.
70%
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Spoiler for Elusive Memories (2013):
Really tried to do something new here. The middle of the three tracks is kinda nicely atmospheric, although very long. Took inspiration from Twin Peaks and the Type O Negative album October Rust for some of the aesthetic elements.
70%
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Spoiler for Creative Suicide part 1: The End (2013):
A mess of tracks from all sorts of time periods. Some are remixes. Some fun stuff, some crap.
70%
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Spoiler for Paralysis (2014):
At least I really tried to write more complex music. Some of these tracks are the most involved I've ever done in terms of complexity, but oh how I hate this album. A couple tracks or so that I kinda like, but it's overall tepid and turgid and drab and I hate it.
10%
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Spoiler for Creative Suicide part 2: GRIM (2014):
In trying to wash the bad vibes of that prior album off my mind, I went back to some very old unfinished tracks and wrapped them up for a short 4 track thingy. Simple groove oriented stuff that I kinda find fun, but overly simplistic.
60%
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Spoiler for Autumn Pyre (2014):
5 tracks from that old DOS program. Old tracks that I went back to and finished up. One new
track written in OpenMPT, plus some old tracks written by my brother in that DOS program.
I have fun with this one.
80%
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Spoiler for Mythology (2015):
Ugh... yet another drab attempt at writing more complex music. There's one track named "Nebulae" that's one of my favorites and another called "Second Guessing" that hides a mean synth solo, but overall, this is dull as dishwater.
25%
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Spoiler for Creative Suicide part 3: Leakage (2015):
Yet another short compilation of odds and ends. All over the place. Most of it is ****, but this time it was intentional. I finished up some of those tracks whether they were deserving or not. Guess I was desperate to wash another drab way-too-long-in-the-making-album off my mind for the second time.
25%
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Spoiler for Dream Inertia (2016):
Total reset of my style! In my opinion, this is the first album I've done where the music starts being pretty polished and sophisticated in how it's structured. A personal favorite and I'm super happy that I made it. I had a unique approach this time where I wrote the tracks like pretty fleshed out demos, one at a time. After a demo was done, I wasn't allowed to listen to it anymore and would move on to the next. When I had 9 tracks, I went back over them and polished them up. Somehow that approach really seemed to work for me. Almost every track has a cool synth solo. That's another thing I like about this.
100%
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Spoiler for Linear Path (2016):
Basically more in the same style as the previous one, but with more piano and more layers. It was hard to avoid all sorts of clashing with all of those layers of open notes, but I made it work eventually and learned a lot. The fourth and last track is kinda weird in that it sounds very different from the other three and is sort of a ramble of ideas, written in a linear fashion like pearls on a string.
100%
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Spoiler for The Hunt (2017):
Tried to do something with more of an electronic style of beats than the previous two. Also tried to strip it down since I couldn't bear dealing with all those layers like I did on the previous one. It's ok. Feels a bit simple sometimes.
80%
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Spoiler for Persona (2017):
Working title was "AOR". That makes sense when you look at how these songs are put together. This is by far the tracks I've written that are closest to being structured like melodic pop/rock songs. I basically aimed to write something melodically driven with a very conservative songwriter approach to chord progressions. Learned a lot by doing this. It's only 3 tracks, but it took forever to put together. There's a fourth track after one minute of silence at the end, but it was a failed attempt at writing more in the same style. I gave up the idea of making a long album, and probably for the better.
100%
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Spoiler for Past & Present (2018):
Weak attempt at evolving the style of the previous project. Track one is decent but sounds flat. Track two is messy and feels lazy in it's structure. The third track is track one with Chula Vista soloing over it. Yeah... I'm not crazy about this thing, honestly. Have felt creatively stuck since.
60%

Last edited by MicShazam; 12-15-2018 at 02:49 AM.
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Old 12-14-2018, 01:07 PM   #204 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MicShazam View Post

Spoiler for Planetary - Distant Stars (2009):
My first album! All written in Reality Adlib Tracker in MS-DOS over a range of many years. This means that the album is very varied in style. This one still holds up for me, plus the personal nostalgia factor is huge.
100%
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Spoiler for Music In Green (2011):
Tried to get used to Open MPT, which would become my preferred music tracker moving forward. I think there's a weird sort of thrash metal influence here, but the songs are basic electronic wank that is mostly interesting in the more busy mid sections. Those opening groovy segments of each song... kinda dull. But I love those crazy mid sections.
50%
Didn't listen to all of these, but sounded really good from what I heard. If I knew how to put custom midi's in Doom, I'd use some of these in my maps (with your permission of course).
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Old 12-14-2018, 04:25 PM   #205 (permalink)
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Didn't listen to all of these, but sounded really good from what I heard. If I knew how to put custom midi's in Doom, I'd use some of these in my maps (with your permission of course).
You can do whatever you want with my stuff, that's totally cool. But they're in IT format, which contains custom samples that MIDI can't immediately understand. There's a way to convert into MIDI though, even if it isn't perfect and requires some hands-on decisions. Not sure if this makes sense to you, but I can explain if needed
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Old 12-17-2018, 01:42 PM   #206 (permalink)
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An in depth album review of an album nobody but me cares about. Great idea!

...I'm just keeping myself busy. Let's get going right away.

Dir En Grey - The Insulated World


I don't know if I should introduce the band first? Dir En Grey - often nicknamed "Diru" by fans (who the **** knows how to pronounce the band name anyway?) - is a Japanese heavy metal/alternative metal/metalcore/death metal/prog metal/avant/j-rock/alt-rock/nu-metal band with very unique and difficult-to-classify musical style.

You can argue about what to label them as until the cows come home. I don't really care about genre classifications to be honest. The band's sound is unique - that's hard to argue against - and we'll leave it at that. "It is what it is", as the saying goes.



The Insulated World is the band's 10th full length studio release, although there's been an amount of significant releases of other descriptions on the way to this point - not least a 6 track EP (Six Ugly) and an album of imaginative re-recordings of older Dir En Grey tracks (The Unraveling).

I find it to be easily the most interesting and rewarding single discography of albums in all of metal, but I'm not holding out hope of convincing any of you dingleberries that that is anything other than fanboi speak (it is - name a metal band to prove me wrong and I will point my finger at it and laugh!).

So, now that I've laid a good foundation and have you attention and definitely totally open minded attitude, I'm going to tell you tediously, and at length, why each song on this new album is good.

1. Keibetsu to Hajimari [03:12]
Right out of the gates, this is pretty hard to classify. Kinda feels like thrash metal, but is kinda nu-metal in some ways, but the guitar tones and low tuned rhythms remind me of that "djent" playing style that is so popular in modern progressive metal.

This track is characterized by sections with steady drum pounding and simple guitar grooves. A breakdown in the middle of the track brings a lot of attention to the bass guitar, which will be very prominent in the mix throughout the album, even if it is rarely allowed to speak on it's own like here.

A lot of what adds interest to this rather musically simplistic track is the varied and energetic vocal histrionics of singer Kyo.

Basically a shot of energy to get us started on.

2. Devote My Life [02:46]
Rapid snare play and feedback noise in the beginning. Heavy bass groove! I really like how the guitars change between several different simple techniques to create varying textures. Some mean ass bendy bass playing in the background and some drum fills that are clearly electronically manipulated. Kyo screams/growls his head off in this one. You will notice by now that the album has a pretty in your face, compressed sound to it. Not a lot of breathing room to be found here, so strap in!

3. Ningen wo Kaburu [03:45]
A simple plucked electric guitar melody opens up this track. We're led into a drum groove with a very nu-metal sounding vocal verse and some very "djent" styled guitar riffs. A pretty damn catchy vocal refrain forms the centerpiece of the song. This is perhaps a good time to mention that DEG often takes a slightly different approach to song structure than most bands do. You'd expect something like this:

intro>verse>chorus>verse>bridge>chorus>solos/repetitions of verse/chorus>end

But Dir En Grey often goes for something more like this:

intro>verse>chorus>variations/extended bridge like segment>solos>chorus return>variations or callback to verse or intro

So basically, their songs often only have two appearances of the chorus and the second appearance is usually delayed. I really like this approach, as with a strong chorus, it really builds anticipations for that second appearance.

Another thing to notice in this track is how a synth of some sort, that sounds a heck of a lot like the distorted guitars on this album, appears a few times as a simple effect/riff. There are a few interesting details in the mix of this album like that. Where electronic manipulations are inserted into the mix in ways that can't easily be replicated live. The band does not have a keyboard player, so I don't know how they intend to handle those details live. In this case, one of the two guitarists could simply mimic the musical phrase - perhaps aided by a pedal effect to make it sound more sterile and robotic.

4. Celebrate Empty Howls [03:23]
Loving the St. Anger sounding tom fills in this one. The main riffs are interesting. Nothing too complex, but I really can't settle on a genre.
Some very impressive and interesting vocal work from Kyo. I love that vocal mid section where the drums take a break for a moment.

Keeps the trend this album has established so far of songs that are heavy, energetic, to the point and surprisingly simple. I'm thinking this might be a reaction to the previous album, Arche, which really dove into the prog-metal elements more than the band ever had before. The Insulated World starts off with a string of short gut-punchers and it's not even the last we've had of that approach so far.

5. Utafumi [03:08]
This was the first single the band dropped from this album. In fact, they dropped it so far back that it wasn't even confirmed for over a year that it would end up being on a full album.
Launches right into your face with drum bashing and unhinged screaming, then jumps right into a mean ear worm of a pop hook. Gotta say this is probably the most shamelessly instant-gratification oriented track the band has ever released, but the more I hear it, the more I'm so totally ****ing fine with that!

Remember what I said about the song structures of this band? After the first chorus there's a super short guitar solo and later a short and (relatively) low key bridge leading into the second chorus. I love that short section of this track.

6. Rubbish Heap[03:06]
Leads off with a bouncy electronic sound of some kind. Then some mean riffing and some... odd vocals. I am reminded, among other things, of System of a Down.
A few low bass notes in this track that will make you poop your pants if you've been holding it in. I'm a fan of low, rumbly bass notes, so I'm feeling at home here.
Kyo is pulling out all the stops here! Mike Patton, eat your heart out! This song is 3 minutes long, but feels like it's over in a minute. It just flows so well and yet new things keep happening (typically in metal many ideas in one song means terrible, choppy flow). A lot of subtle shifts in dynamics and how the riffs are played and tied together. Very well done and I'd say this one illustrates why this is one of my favorite metal bands when it comes to songwriting/compositional chops. One of my favorites on the album.

7. Aka [03:59]
Phew! We're at track 7 and we finally get a real breather! There's been some interesting variations in dynamics and sounds so far, but this is the first truly melodically centered track on the album.
Kyo opens up with an extensive and fleshed out melodic vocal section that
hits me every time. Right after that, we get one of precious few solos that are longer than "blink and you'll miss it". Thankfully, they make it count for something and it's really quite spectacular and beautiful. The tremolo riffs behind some of the vocal sections are really trademark Dir En Grey at this point, adding black metal to the long list of musical influences detectable in their music. Although most of all, it reminds me of the Silent Hill 2 video game soundtrack (not coincidentally, they've worked with Akira Yamaoka on a song back in 2014).
After that extensive stretch of madcap screeching and pounding, it sure feels good to bring things down a notch and have Kyo caress your ears for a moment. Another favorite track of mine.

8. Values of Madness [03:30]
There's a bunch of catchy riffs in this one, including a weird kinda stomping riff in the middle. It generally feels more upbeat than the other tracks so far. The vocal segment near the end is a thing of beauty, but mostly, this track dives right back into relentlessly energetic rocking-out.

9. Downfall [02:49]
This track is probably the most ferocious of the bunch so far. Also, fittingly, rather short. The guitar riffs are simple but very, very effective. Pay attention and you'll find some neat details in both the drumming and bass playing too. Most of all, I think what would characterize this track for people not into the bands sound is a probably very off-putting vocal performance by Kyo. I think it's great, of course.

10. Followers [04:41]
Starts off with a sudden rusty metal sort of sound, then some pretty synths and some melancholy guitar playing. The tom playing and verse vocals are a very nice combo. Some very neat shifts in musical dynamics even before we're out of the verse. Kyo is in excellent vocal form on this album! He's not using that whole extra upper octave he brought to the table out of nowhere on the previous album, but on the other hand, his vocals sound less forced, more comfortable on this album. I find myself sometimes wishing he'd go for something more ambitious, but it does end up being up being both a defining trait and a strength of this album that Kyo is doing his vocals in a more raw manner. He did have great difficulties pulling off the material of the previous album live, so the change makes a heck of a lot of sense.
This one is very vocally oriented. The music has a lot of details that serve and change the mood of the track, but it really is all about the vocal melody and Kyo's voice.

11. Keigaku no Yoku [04:29]
The guitar riffs have been strikingly simple so far on this album and this song is no exception. The main riff in this song is a real ear worm and somewhat recalls a sort of old school Sabbath feel, but again with that modern metal influence.

I think Kyo's vocals are absolutely mesmerizing in this track. There's also something about those restrained, lumbering verse sections that works extremely well. Obvious electronic manipulations emerge again and serve as segways to very short segments of metalcore blasting. The production of the album really falls short in these sections as it's very difficult to hear what the hell the guitars are playing behind those drums and screams, but I guess you could say that it makes it sound more chaotic and therefore cool. I suppose so...

The song ends rather abruptly as well and feels a bit oddly structured. But even despite these shortcomings, it's one of my favorites on the album. Those verse sections sell it hard.

12. Zetsuentai [07:20]
By far the longest song on an album full of short songs. It could be fairly described as a sort of progressive metal track. A fast, aggressive vocal section in the middle of the track sounds interestingly like... fast paced rap metal with gang shouts and djent-tuned death metal riffs? Or uh... something like that. Then some pretty lead guitars and falsetto vocals follow, plus the return of a creepy sound effect from the intro. It's pretty all over the place, but it amazingly holds together and just makes sense intuitively anyway. This sort of genre potpourri is the bread an butter of much of the band's discography. But the reason why they're so great is that it does not sound gimmicky, but instead gels into a style all of its own - seeming as if those things always belonged together as much as, say, the various musical elements that make up your typical death metal track.
Another standout vocal performance from Kyo, but that seems a given by now on this album.

13. Ranunculus [04:25]
Final track on the standard issue of the album. This one has a j-rock vibe to it that goes way back to the early days of the band. Some fans are going crazy for this as though they've been waiting impatiently through years and years of metal freakouts for a return to this style. Personally, I'm totally cool with this track, but it's not my favorite by any means.
It's nice to end the album on a relatively more easy going level of intensity, but this was never the side of the band that caught my attention to begin with. Even on their early albums, prog metal and Deftones-esque nu-metal experiments were present and accounted for, and that's where my attention wandered.
Still, it's a good song for sure. It's just not anywhere near being the most interesting track on the album. It does serve as a fine bookend to this album, so we'll leave it at that.

Final notes and rating
Rating? Who the **** cares about ratings!

9/10, I guess. They've got a few better albums, but it's still very satisfying and I love how fast it seems to fly by every time. Spin it again!

It's an interesting album by how it separates itself from the rest of their discography: By leaning heavily on simple, modern metal riffs with metalcore and nu-metal leanings. By sticking almost solely to short and simple heavy shots of adrenaline. And by playing around with an array of sound effects and vocal effects to further separate the tracks from each other. It feels very modern, very 2018, yet takes some subtle cues from tracks almost across the entire Dir En Grey discography. Only people who know their discography well will notice this last point, but it really does have a feel of being almost sort of a retrospective album.

Last edited by MicShazam; 12-17-2018 at 02:02 PM.
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Old 12-20-2018, 05:33 PM   #207 (permalink)
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Yo Mic, have you heard of this Danish TV series:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kingdom_(miniseries)
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Old 12-20-2018, 06:15 PM   #208 (permalink)
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The birthing scene at the end of season 1>>>>>>
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Old 12-20-2018, 07:11 PM   #209 (permalink)
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Yo Mic, have you heard of this Danish TV series:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kingdom_(miniseries)
I've heard about it of course, since it was huge when it came out. But it ran on a TV channel we didn't have back then and I've never actually watched a single episode.
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Old 12-31-2018, 06:57 AM   #210 (permalink)
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Just some short takes on music that I heard this year. Not always actually from this year.

Probably doing more, since this is a very easy format. Being lazy, I like easy things.

Artist: Horrendous
Album: Idol
Year: 2018

Thoughts: Kind of a load of death metal easy listening. The drums and guitars lack bite and the songs are a bunch of comfort food riffs and leads that fail to challenge in any way. Very well played, but stale production and bland songwriting makes it hard for me to care much.
The first half especially feels rather lacking in variety, but the second half of the album doesn't get significantly more interesting, even if some more kinds of musical ideas start seeping through the cracks at this point.
It basically sounds like the Death album Chuck would have eventually made, had he not died young, but instead lived long enough to run out of ideas.



Artist: Vanja Sky
Album: Bad Penny
Year: 2018

Thoughts: This debut album from a young blues artist is flawed but fun. I don't feel like she's very confident in the studio, with vocals often coming off as hesitant or forced. But still, there's a certain energy here that makes the songs - all well written - fly by in what feels like a short amount of time. It also helps that the album sounds pretty good, with a well balanced mix of guitar tones and bass tones that give it some forcefulness and body.

I hope to see some more albums from her in the future, as she could grow into a real contender. As it is, this album is nothing too mind blowing, but it has a way of being likeable and welcoming. At least one song had a pretty cool riff idea going for it, so that's something too. All in all a decent starting point for a new artist on the scene. I think she's got the voice, the songs (mostly) and the guitar chops. She just has to work on her vocal delivery.



Artist: Widespread Panic
Album: Don't Tell the Band
Year: 2001

Thoughts: The 7th studio release by these Georgia blues rockers. Probably not the best place to start with this band, but hey, I got it real cheap! There's some interestingly unusual songwriting ideas here and there, but there's also a feeling of a sort of blanket having been lowered over the proceedings, keeping volumes and energy levels in check a little too much. Basically, I feel like I'm listening to dad-music. Like late-era Marillion albums from around the same time or something.
Closer listening tells me that the worst culprit is the vocalist. He's trying to put me to sleep! I feel like I gotta move on before he succeeds. The weird thing is that I kinda like the album a bit anyway. I guess that some of the tracks actually do pretty well with a sort of sleepy feeling, not least "This Part of Town". But I'm honestly not sure I'm keeping this one...



Artist: Gwen Stefani
Album: Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
Year: 2004

Thoughts: No other songs turned out to be as good as the one I knew in advance ("What You Waiting For?"), although a couple other tracks have a similar energetic rock-infused-pop feeling. Mostly, this album suffers from too many cooks syndrome. It's exceedingly obvious that there's a trillion different producers involved here so there's no coherent sound to the album at all. Or much of a coherent style, for that matter. It also does not help that the songs tend to be either decent but predictable, or a bit more creatively daring but the usually with sketchy results. Not a bad pop album, but it's too scattershot for me to care much about it.

Last edited by MicShazam; 12-31-2018 at 07:04 AM.
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