Monthly Archives: August 2013

MUFASA – Top 10 Albums of 2013, January – June

Getting some graduation business out of the way during the past 6 months while still keeping the steady stream of brew-reviews coming has taken an unfortunate toll on the musical side of this blog. So the least that I can once again do to catch up is count down what I think has been the best recorded music released during the first half of 2013. For notable convenience I’ve made separate lists for the jams of my native country and the foreign ones.


Finnish Offerings

10. Santa Cruz – Screaming for Adrenaline

Screaming for Adrenaline

Spinefarm Records

The young blokes in Santa Cruz bring some classic 80s style hard rock (more Guns N’ Roses than Mötley Crüe, although you could make a case for the styles of both, I guess) with some added virtuosity in the guitar solos to spice up the hard partying mood. Strong yet suitably sleazy pipes on that vocalist as well. Fans of straight-up rocking should take special notice. 7,5 / 10 MUFASAs.

9. Hexvessel – Iron Marsh EP

Iron Marsh EP

Svart Records

Psychedelic folk summonings to the max. Not the most high-energy offering on this list so not the first choice of an LP for the party season but in terms of atmospherics and some brew-sipping-while-lounging-music, this is great stuff. The kinda music that’s also most recommendable on vinyl. 7,5 / 10 MUFASAs.

8. Jätkäjätkät – Marian Sairaala

Marian Sairaala

Roihis Musika

Considering the high volume of rock, prog and metal that dominates my lists, it might disturb some readers that the vocal side of this album is largely rap-oriented. But frankly, as a language major and hopeful academic toungue twister, I cannot shun rapping when it is of such a high quality as it is here. Naturally it helps immensely when the musical side provide a high-energy dose of balkan/slavic-influenced folk that may not provide many distorted guitars but in terms of the vibe, is very rocking nonetheless. Something different to bring flavours into your mind. 7,5 / 10 MUFASAs.

7. Mikko Pettinen – 2Happy

2Happy

MP-Records

Mikko Pettinen is one of the long-standing trumpet players of Finland’s perhaps premier jazz/soul/all-around-rhythm-ownage collective, the UMO Jazz Orchestra. His first solo album provides a hearty dose of grooving jazz and ample touches of soul-funk that should get any folks with a pulse moving. Maybe the lyrical side can get a tad corny from time to time but even if that grinds your gears for a moment, the music should get your engine going again real quickly. 8 / 10 MUFASAs.

6. WÖYH! – Ikkillyk

Ikkillyk

Kaskelotti Records

A circus show of different genres in stellar Finnish wordsmithery. Band references such as YUP and Absoluuttinen Nollapiste will probably be lost on most if not all foreign readers. Imagine a melting pot of zany progness with a good helping of rhythmic trickery, notable flavours of hard rock, a commendable appreciation of harmonized acapella singing, some woodwinds and horns for a touch of jazz, even the kind of naive whimsy you often find in children’s singalongs…all that and then some comes together on Ikkillyk and somehow holds together nicely. Not an album for everyone but personally I thoroughly enjoy the versatility. 8 / 10 MUFASAs.

5. Lost Society – Fast Loud Death

Fast Loud Death

Nuclear Blast

Four dudes each barely scratching the age-limit of two decades individually, churning the kind of high-speed crossovering thrash metal that should either put huge smiles on the faces of fans of the Kreators, S.O.D.‘s and Stone‘s or put those same fans out for the count. A band to be reckoned with in the near future, metal fans have been warned. My detailed review is available here8 / 10 MUFASAs.

4. Sammal – Sammal

Sammal

Svart Records

The Finnish prog scene has never entirely dwindled throughout the decades but out of names in the past few years, Sammal (Finnish for “moss”) has made a particularly strong impression on me with their take of some classic 1970s vibes from the folky flourishes to the more cosmic keyboards and overall high-flying atmospherics. And they don’t forget to mingle with some poppy sensibilities either. Potent, versatile stuff. 8,5 / 10 MUFASAs.

3. Kalmah – Seventh Swamphony

Seventh Swamphony

Spinefarm Records

A band that I’ve long considered the middle of melodic death metal’s road from mediocrity to greatness finally slaps one deep into the net with their seventh studio offering. Aggressive, catchy and suitably epic at times without stretching too far for their style. 8,5 / 10 MUFASAs.

2. Amorphis – Circle

Circle

Nuclear Blast

The pioneering stalwart of the Finnish metal scene keeps pumping out the atmospheric and melodic metal goodness from one album to another while still keeping a few fingers on those death metallic roots. Maybe even a touch more of the ancient blackness can be smelt here as well. The most reliable war horse around, folks.  8,5 / 10 MUFASAs.

1. Shade Empire – Omega Arcane

Omega Arcane

Candlelight Records

A buddy of mine once described Shade Empire as “Much like Dimmu Borgir, except Shade Empire is awesome”. That’s a pretty apt characterization. Their brand of grandiose, suitably complex melodic black metal has enough thrashiness and hooky twists in it to avoid monotony while keeping everything suitably brutal. Extra points are naturally given for the intentional-or-not melody-reference that opens the record. Fans of author George R.R. Martin’s most famous works and their modern adaptations should get a hearty smile out of it. 8,5 / 10 MUFASAs.


Foreign Offerings

10. Bad Religion – True North

True North

Epitaph

The cerebrally compelling punk pioneers keep the pit churning, with the enjoyable touches of hardcore to boot. The world-famous oozin’ aaaahs cannot let you down, if ya ask me. Plus points for the great album title as well. 7,5 / 10 MUFASAS.

9. Alice In Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

Universal

The undisputed champion of the 1990s Seattle-scene why it had a leg up on its local colleagues with a HEAVY batch of new tunes that provide both the gloom and the melody. Riffs grind away and the harmonized singing is stellar. I was even a little surprised how sludgy and ground-shaking this turned out to be. Viewing their new output, I may still enjoy the Black Gives Way To Blue-record just a little more, but the Chains are still definitely on. 7,5 / 10 MUFASAs.

8. Suicidal Tendencies – 13

13

Suicidal Records

Still Suicyco after all these years. Few people know how to fire a mosh pit with the ferocity and groove of Mike Muir and his band of punky thrashers. Bonus points for the straight-up funky nods at Suicidal’s “sibling band” Infectious Grooves8 / 10 MUFASAS.

7. The Winery Dogs – The Winery Dogs

The Winery Dogs

Victor Entertainment

Musical “supergroups” have always been a dicey proposition in my eyes as it has been easy to find the initial enthusiasm of name recognition and individual skills fade under the weight of mediocre song material. But it seems Ritchie Kotzen (guitar for Mr. Big and briefly Poison), Billy Sheehan (bass maestro with Mr. Big, David Lee Roth, Steve Vai and many more), Mike Portnoy (that whole Dream Theater, Transatlantic, Neal Morse Band scene of pretty spectacular bands, ya know) have been able to avoid this trap by mixing their evident virtuocity with nastily grooving, bluesy hard rock that gets my veins pumping with the quickness. And man, I had no idea Kotzen can sing leads this well. I agree with the folks who have said that Kotzen sounds a lot like Soundgarden‘s Chris Cornell at times, except that Kotzen is better. 8 / 10 MUFASAS.

6. Riverside – Shrine of New Generation Slaves

Shrine of New Generation Slaves

Century Media

If it’s a spirit-affirming picnic record you’re looking for, these Poles may not be you primary choice of entertainment. But after writing these guys off (somewhat needlessly) as a lightweight Porcupine Tree for quite some time, this thought-provoking and enveloping slab of heavy prog rock pounding convinced me that Riverside is for real. 8,5 / 10 MUFASAs.

5. Dropkick Murphys – Signed and Sealed in Blood

Signed and Sealed in Blood

Born & Bred Records

The boys are back, and they’re looking for trouble. Whether they found it or not does not really affect the fact that they brought the high-voltage, ale-drenched celtic punk with all the pipes, whistles and stellar quality that we wished for. Long may they revel, on Lansdowne Street and beyond. 8,5 / 10 MUFASAs.

4. The Tangent – Le Sacre Du Travail

Le Sacre Du Travail

Inside Out Music

“The Rite of Work”, what I’d also dub as the greatest soundtrack to your standard 9-to-5 workday that you could find. A frolicking progressive adventure with rock, touches of classical music, jazz and even dabs of fusion, hints of folk, awesome washes and stings of keyboards and organs filling the skyline of buzzing around you, all set to a thematic story about the joy or futility of modern life, depending how you want to take it. In no way a sermon though, as humour plays a very important part here. You can’t take your work with you to the other side and your kids will sell the rest off on Ebay anyhow, so don’t waste their time and enjoy what you can, mate. Very decidedly British, both dry and witty. Superb stuff.  9 / 10 MUFASAs.

3. Here Come the Mummies – Cryptic

Cryptic

Sphinxter

Undead funkiness from the dusty depths of ancient spacy Egypt with a groove that would make the sun god Ra himself sweat profusely. Lemme rephrase that. Undead. Funk. Get this. 9 / 10 MUFASAs.

2. Spock’s Beard – Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep

Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep

Inside Out Music

California’s favourite prog rock sons continue to unintentionally mirror the career path set by the British overlords Genesis as their singer/drummer Nick D’Virgilio left the group after having already taken the spot left by the original front man Neal Morse (in effect just like Phil Collins did in relation to Peter Gabriel in Genesis). Losing such a brilliant singer and drummer would crush lesser bands but Spock’s Beard soldiers on with new vocalist Ted Leonard and against many odds, nails it marvelously on their first collaboration, Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep. Full of lush melodies, walls of vocal bliss, twists and turns in structure while keeping it all intact and away from noodling self-indulgence…simply put, progressive rock how I like it. 9 / 10 MUFASAs.

1. Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)

The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)

Kscope

This doozy has probably locked the honor of the foreign Album of the Year circa 2013 already. Something brain-melting has to come out to do better. If you seriously need to know more, I’ll give you the details right here10 / 10 MUFASAs.

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BOW #146 – Night Shift Taza Stout

It’s much less of a leap from Maine to my home away from home, Massachusetts, where we find an interesting specimen of a stout.

Taza Stout

courtesy of journeytothebeerstore.blogspot.com

Night Shift Brewing’s Taza Stout made me expect something very thick, malty and clearly javaful. Some of that came to fruition but overall I was largely surprised by what rose from the depths of the lovely black colour. The first hit is very dry and instead of full-bodied chocolate, there’s a sting of raw cocoa seguing into hints of dark chocolate. The sweetness lingering on the sides has a creamy quality that does bring in a touch of dynamics. The sour aftertaste lasts nicely with more dark chocolate and a wee bit of herbs as well. The overall mouthfeel is smooth despite the unexpected thinness, maybe even surprisingly so given the noteworthy 7% ABV. Despite largely not finding what I expected here and thus being maybe just a little disappointed, I eventually enjoyed the Taza Stout alright. Giving it a cocoa-dried 85.

Keep on brewin’

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BOW #145 – Allagash Tripel Ale

Continuing with the theme of wide-range state-hopping around the United States, we’ll take a leap to the murky liberal depths of New England’s northeast corner and Maine. As far as I know, Stephen King has surprisingly not made direct references to this brew in his works, but don’t count that against it.

Allagash!

courtesy of chefelf.com

It seems that the Allagash brewery has been vocally lauded as a high-level producer of Belgian-style beers in the US so what better way to see if that is so than with a tripel ale. Really full-bodied and sweet with a beautiful golden shimmer, the taste up front does deliver. A notable touch of fruits is present from banana to citrus, considerable herbal qualities, some bread and the obvious yeastiness in the aftertaste, hint of flora on the sides with the cloves…it’s weird that on the spot I don’t end up liking a concoction this solid more. Maybe it’s because everything feels so traditional when a strong tripel is concerned but nothing truly stood out in the mix. The walloping 9% ABV doesn’t sting much at all so enjoying a full six-pac in one evening might prove hazardous. All in all, I’ve seen much higher praise for this doozy from very credible sources so maybe there’s something that I’m just missing. Very good stuff, but no quality within truly rises to the occasion. Giving this one a belgiamerican 82.

Keep on brewin’

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MUFASA – Temple of Previews: Carcass with “Surgical Steel”

Ye gods. I knew delving into the hallowed Temple of Previews would be a shock to the system, but a shock of this magnitude, seven odd months of no writing about music here? Unexpected. I will have to man up, as they say, and pick up my pace with these pieces.

Moving forward from the chamber of Steven Wilson’s latest masterpiece, I soon detect a most foul reek wafting my way. From another chamber up ahead, I see a swarm of flies buzz away from me with a distinct clatter of steel accompanying them. Reaching the, chamber, I can see the header…Carcass – Surgical Steel. By Gibbons’ beard…the whispers were true. A fresh on-disc assault, 17 years after their previous studio offering. The British innovators of both grindcore (all due respect to Napalm Death as well, of course) and melodic death metal have reformed ranks with a few new blokes added to the core of bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker and guitarist Bill Steer to delight us beyond festival main stages.

Nuclear Blast 2013

As I hop over the most decayed cadavers lingering at the entrance, a razor-sharp yet eerie wave of lead guitar stings take over my senses. Some Defenders-era Judas Priest distinctly comes to mind. But that relatively “light” mood is quickly changed when a full-on blast of thrash plasters my face on the wall. If this is the shape of the metal to come, fans of the Necroticism-album will not be disappointed. A definitive frequency of thrashiness swirls all around me as the neck-snapping breaks and guitar solos leave you helpless – enthusiastically so but still helpless. Heartwork often comes across as the true new school favorite in the group’s catalogue and lovers of the seminal melodeath classic are not left out in the cold either. Walker still sounds like he has been washing his mouth daily with gravel ever since the Clinton-administration, brutal yet somehow, due to unholy magic or British tap water, very easily understandable in terms of diction. The words dig in like knives as shadows of dark satanic mills appear to be collapsing onto you as the overall heaviness presses onwards like a steamroller. These veterans have definitely not returned for a half-hearted cashgrab or a blindingly baffling orgy of experimentation, either. This is downright metallic ownage, people.

I guess the only element left largely out is the filthiest of blast beats. No genital grinding or innards fermenting on this one, even if new drummer Dan Wilding does unleash a few rapidfire blasts here and there to keep you poor souls alert when the technical death serves justice. it seems that the youthful scum of the late-80s was duly left in its time, where it certainly worked beautifully. Surgical Steel is slightly more defined with a powerful production job to accompany it, but true to the band’s name, there are boils and scabs to accompany the “sheen”. I’ll have to add that there isn’t much of the Swansong-era, straight-forward rockiness either. A little, and it does account for the rare moment of mediocrity near the end of the record, but not much. Overall simply metallic to the bone and honestly, throughout even better than I dared to anticipate when I walked into this chamber.

The reek that I noticed in the corridor was not of putrefaction, but of undead vitality. Somehow like a white walker lumbering from beyond the grave to teach us all at least once more how it’s done.

P.S. Beyond the Temple, there’s already an official sample. A good track for sure, but trust me, the album will provide scorchers much superior to this one:

Categories: Music From Absolutely Stupendous Artists | Leave a comment

BOW # 144 – Odell Cutthroat Porter

From Pennsylvania we hop over to Colorado for some mercenary-styled business.

courtesy of independentmail.com

The Odell brewery’s Cutthroat Porter launches forth a notably dry concoction that has a very coffee-like sting in the beginning, touch of crispy hops, a much sweeter vibe with the aftertaste that includes some chocolate and a waft of vanilla that gets stronger as the drink warms up a bit. A somewhat refreshing quality is included as well, somewhat minty? Mayhaps. Even though these different tastes form a very dynamic mix, I’m left feeling that nothing kicks up into the next level. The modest 5% ABV corresponds well with the smooth mouthfeel. I feel that this porter is a really good “snack-choice” on your way to the big leagues. Giving this one a vanillaesque 80.

Keep on brewin’

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BOW #143 – Victory Golden Monkey Tripel

Having gone through such a significant batch of Canadian brews, I can now take a moment of a few weeks to turn my head back at the US. The theme is also relevant due to a few buddies of mine just returning from a lengthy road trip of the States where they provided our beer club with a vast number of useful video reviews. Should they ever make them public, rest assured that they will be linked here. While that may or may not occur, Ammmmurrican beers it is!

Golden Monkey!

courtesy of letspour.com

The Victory brewing company made its debut here on BT over two years ago with their nifty HopDevil IPA so it’s about time this fine Pennsylvania brewery gets some more attention from us. Indeed, good things do come out of Pennsylvania in spite of the Flyers and the Penguins.

As I understand, the Golden Monkey tripel ale made some good hype upon its introdction in the US, hype that has since either been lauded or criticized. I certainly enjoy my Belgian-style ales and I duly enjoyed this primeape as well. Right off the bat, a strong waft of spices and warmth rammed its way through, corainder and cloves in the forefront. Fruitiness was present as well, some banana and maybe even apricots. The expected yeast came in the aftertaste with some added pungent sweetness. A really dynamic doozy all around. As far as the ABV goes, Golden Gorilla might be a more fitting name as the 9,5% voltage packs the appropriate wallop. Still smooth though, so trying more than one or two bottles a night might prove treacherous. Yes I have enjoyed better tripels but that doesn’t diminish this innovative doozy. Consider me on board with the hype and basically flabbergasted at any harder, “just good not great”-criticism leveled at this one. I’ll give this a junglebooking 87.

Keep on brewin’

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