Category: D

31 Days Of Halloween Albums – Day 24

Much like Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails, Dave Matthews Band was a group that was an unavoidable irritant for me as a burgeoning music fan throughout the early ’90s. As someone who preferred the likes of rawer, heavier bands and with an angst-ridden music elitist during that era, every song from Under The Table And Dreaming and Crash would send me into fits of rage. The Downward Spiral and Nirvana’s Nevermind were so popular that even the sight of the CD’s would fill me with anger. I was as much a hipster elitist as those album purchasers were “posers.” Hey, at least I was a hipster before it was cool though, yeah?

Dave Matthews Band: Before These Crowded Streets (1998)

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Today’s entry is going to read even more like a nostalgic journey entry than most on our site’s blog. For one, I’m not a fan of Dave Matthews Band per se, though I find his work as a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter admirable and interesting. In short, I respect what he does, both as a front-man and composer but I really can’t stand the majority of his legacy with this band and absolutely loathe the fandom that surrounds it.

So, it was 1998 and I was into bands like Slayer, Black Flag and Doves. Every guitarist and drummer I knew was fawning over Dave Matthews Band and The Smashing Pumpkins so every jam with every capable musician included having to know a few tracks by each of those bands. Ants Marching was getting old and despicable but I kept putting on a happy face. We used to have sessions at the lead guitarist’s home when I first heard the song Halloween, the sixth song from Before These Crowded Streets. It was raw, unsettling and perfectly reflected the mood of the month that I had first heard it, October.

The creepy screams of Matthews at the end of that song birthed the incredibly frantic acoustic riff that opened The Stone. A long story short and I was hooked on the album. Every day I practiced and meticulously learned every guitar and bass line from Pantala Naga Pampa to Spoon. It might still be the most fun I’ve ever had learning to play material written by another band and Halloween and The Stone remain two songs I will listen to every year in October.

My appreciation for Dave Matthews grew from disgust to respect that October in 1998. I still don’t like the majority of his commercial releases but learning those guitar parts made me a better player as his songwriting is superb.

Before These Crowded Streets maintains a cold, autumn feel throughout and is one that I recommend to anyone looking to enjoy the season. I’d also like to personally give a nod to the rarer recordings of Matthews and Tim Reynolds performing at Luther College. It is required listening for anyone who wants to up their acoustic guitar game from campground to fantastic. One Sweet World is a great place to start.


31 Days Of Halloween Albums – Day 16

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead Trilogy is simply one of the best series to have ever been released with the Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn being my absolute favorite film of all time as well as my go-to test of character among people. To put it bluntly, if you can’t at least moderately enjoy the movie for it’s ridiculous humor and grisly effects there is a good chance we can’t be friends. Today’s album is as perfect a pairing with that movie as red wine with beef.

Deicide (1990)

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My introduction to this band was fittingly with this inaugural, eponymous album on cassette tape in the year of it’s release. It was one of my first exposures to Death Metal so I had thought I’d stumbled upon something illegally belched up from the depths of hell, a sort of audio derelict abandoned from the house of Satan himself. Odd, I know but I was very young and thought I should hide the evidence to only enjoy alone.

Coincidentally, 1990 would also be the year I first discovered Evil Dead 2 so you can probably imagine the look on my face the first time I heard the song Dead By Dawn, a track obviously inspired by the film. My mind was blown and that’s where my obsession with Benton’s recreation of the “she bitch’s” guttural howls from within the cellar began. Since then I’ve probably heard the song a billion times. It, like the film are Halloween staples.

So far on this list we’ve run the gamut from the atmospheric subtlety of Bohren & Der Club Of Gore through the cheeky playfulness of Misfits to the Lovecraftian terror that is Wrest’s music. Deicide’s first album is the audio equivalent of a quick-paced slasher film. It is as brutally frenetic as a madman chasing his victim through the woods. The guitar riffs performed by brothers Eric and Brian Hoffman are as precise and calculated as a psychopath’s ax and Asheim’s drums are terrifyingly quick but steady. The band fires on all cylinders out of the gate on Lunatics Of God’s Creation and never ceases to persist.

Despite my naivety in believing that this album was a rarity, it was actually a huge success and often considered to be a true Death Metal classic. I can’t argue with the critical acclaim it has garnered over the years and at just over 33 minutes it is the perfect amount of heavy music without overstaying it’s welcome or becoming redundant.

Part of the reason this is such a highly regarded record is due to the inclusion of the legendary Scott Burns who famously produced pretty much every notable band at the time. Chances are, if you’ve heard and enjoyed any Death Metal record album from the ’90s, this man was at the helm.

I’m not a huge fan of Deicide’s other albums but this first one is aces in my book. Admittedly, the “God hating” thing gets a little tiresome and gimmicky after a couple of albums but what’s here is as fresh today as it was in 1990. Very rarely can a heavy band fill the duration of an entire record with riffs this interestingly complex. Seriously, every second of this thing is packed with quality. If aggressive music just isn’t your bag I’d still recommend checking out the song Dead By Dawn, if only for the amazing vocals and especially if you’re an Evil Dead fan.


Depeche Mode: Black Celebration (1986)

Reinvention: To invent again or anew, especially without knowing that the invention already exists.

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A little wear and tear for an album that has gotten a lot of use over the years.

Things are always changing. A decade ago I could eat a hamburger or enjoy a few beers without having to adjust the size of my pants. Road signs were easier to read, sleep was uninterrupted by washroom breaks and Nickelback were on the FM radio. Growth and change are two things that many artists attempt. Sometimes it is to appeal to the masses, many times it is caused by boredom but rarely does change act to truly reinvent and improve things as well as Depeche Mode on their fifth full length album.

Prior to Black Celebration, Depeche Mode wrote great poppy music. The treble was hot, the songs a bit scattered and the sound very discernibly a product of the ’80s. Sure, they had some hits and yeah, I dig almost all of those earlier outings but it wasn’t until this record that their sound became entirely original. It is as dark as it is lively and full of hope. Focused while being absolutely random. Somehow all of the anomalies present here culminate into a truly remarkable beast of a record. This significant paradigm shift in sound may have lost a few fans of the band’s earlier material but it was a change that separated them from a lot of the radio fluff that was being released at the time. It is as mature an effort as any band in the industry has ever made.

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What do the symbols on the lyric sheets mean? Who cares, they look snazzy.

It is admirable when a successful band takes such risks. There are few artists who can pull it off. Miles Davis, Radiohead, Sonic Youth are a few examples who come to mind. It is a gutsy move for anyone to change their trajectory so abruptly and downright terrifying for an iconic band to do so with a legion of followers behind them. Still, this was an artistic decision, whether intentional or naturally, that turned a stadium packing band into something more. Since 1986, Depeche Mode has been one of the most unique, intriguing and important bands in the industry, in my opinion.

So, it goes without saying that I highly recommend Black Celebration. From the opening mechanical hum that opens the title track to the wonderfully poppy yet poignant echos of New Dress and But Not Tonight this is a perfect experience. Along the way it flows seamlessly from stark to bombastic from dance tracks to ballads without ever sounding jarring or ill conceived. For every bouncy Question Of Time there is a bare-bones song like Stripped to offer variety. It is one of those rare experiences that it both as rewarding as it is timeless and at a perfect 40 minutes you might find yourself promptly replaying the entire thing over.

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Track List:

Black Celebration
Fly On The Windscreen (Final)
A Question Of Lust
Sometimes
It Doesn’t Matter Two
A Question Of Time
Stripped
Here Is The House
World Full Of Nothing
Dressed In Black
New Dress
But Not Tonight


Dalek : Asphalt For Eden (2016)

Innovative :
(of a product, idea, etc.) featuring new methods; advanced and original.

(of a person) introducing new ideas; original and creative in thinking.

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Beautiful album art done by Paul Romano.

Gutter Tactics absolutely blew me away back in 2009. It was an album that completely revitalized my interests in experimental modern music and made me eagerly anticipate a followup.

So, after 7 years we have Asphalt For Eden. I’m not one to typically purchase anything on release dates but this was different. Gutter Tactics was easily one of my favourite albums of that year’s releases and infrequently gets abandoned from my phone’s music list. The question is, does Asphalt For Eden deliver? With that much personal hype invested it could have easily disappointed. I’m happy to say, it is just as good. Maybe even better.

Whether you are a fan of “rapping” vocals or not I can’t recommend this album enough. Asphalt For Eden contains a few more catchy hooks than other albums in this Jersey born band’s discography but it actually works to make the music more interesting and diverse. The artistic integrity is still in tact and while songs like Shattered and Guaranteed Struggle do offer a more steady rhythm to the often noisy, ambient and atmospheric song structures, it does so tastefully. For those more interested in the dark psychedelia of past albums, there are plenty of textures and cacophonous compositions to sink your teeth into. 6dB and Masked Laughter are prime examples of the more experimental pieces here and they do not disappoint. They are sequenced perfectly between some of the more accessible songs here and work to balance the album out well.

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Eden indeed (en)

Things are a little less angry this time around with less attention spent on social criticisms and frustrations with the world at large. That isn’t to say that these themes aren’t present. If anything, they are more impactful than ever as they are woven into the lyrical fabric more tactfully and, as such come across more fully realized. Shattered is a perfect example of this with it’s accusations that people of all states struggle with hope and that “world has cataracts.”

Other songs like the mentioned Masked Laughter are a lot more introspective. There is a sense of personal anguish and frustration that can be heard from Brooks that isn’t typical. This change in lyrical direction makes this album much more engaging for me than some of their past works. At a short 38 minutes it concise, evocative and well conceived. It Just Is ends the album well with and showcases a few new ideas. The moodier, electronic intro separates it from the other 6 tracks. Lyrically, it is sparse. If this is the direction of future Dalek, I would be happy.

Asphalt For Eden is not only a terrific successor to Asphalt For Eden but a fantastic return for a band who spent 7 years in “hiatus.” It isn’t as dour or as ambient as some of their earlier records but the changes they have made in their music are for the better. I’m just hopeful that they will stick to this project with the current members and build off of this template.

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Track List:

Shattered
Guaranteed Struggle
Masked Laughter (Nothing’s Left)
Critical
6dB
Control
It Just Is

 


Deltron 3030 (2000)

Cosmic: Immeasurably extended in time and space; vast.

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3030 or 1984?

Del tha Funkee Homosapien has always been one of my favourite rappers. For years he has been the antithesis to the obscenity laced form of lyricism offered by his peers and often hits with whimsical genius. On this record he hits the ball out of the park as the aptly named Deltron Zero. This alter-ego is a disillusioned mech soldier and interplanetary computer prodigy rebelling against the New World Order, not to be confused with THE NWO. Along for the ride we have many guest stars along for the ride with the most important of them being Dan the Automator as producer and Kid Koala on turntables. If nothing in this first paragraph tickles your fancy, you may not be on board for this intergalactic mission as it quite succinctly follows a specific concept; as ridiculous as it may appear in writing.

As the “Funkee Homosapien’s” name might imply, this is a strange and befuddling piece of music. I say “piece” as this is, yet another series of songs best enjoyed from front to back. The narrative is ridiculously silly but there are sincere Orwellian elements as well. Satirically, it is rather broad but still impactful due to the incredibly atmospheric music and phenomenally delivered vocal lines.

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A gatefold would have been a nicer thing to photograph.

Del’s lyricism is articulate, interesting and surreal. It is clear that he had a reasonably concise idea in mind when writing for this record as it took him a mere two weeks to construct the majority of the themes in writing. Deltron Zero (a superhero) is aided by his two sidekicks, “The Cantankerous Captain Aptos” and “Skiznod the Boy Wonder.”
These two galactic sidekicks are Dan the Automator and Kid Koala respectively.
Together this group of heroes go on to tackle many sociological and political issues through the facade of rap battles and fantastical mech wars. As I previously noted, these are delivered with varying degrees of satirical success. Some of the lyrics work better when taken jokingly. This is intentional and only goes to prove how great of a writer Del is. He can be make a serious social commentary while having fun.

This album builds slow with a moody musical introduction accompanied by a short introductory narrative by Damon Albarn of Blur fame and never ceases to excite. The “skit” sections are well realized and don’t overstay their welcome. Each song has a great beat and keeps things flowing. There is not one bad thing I can say about Deltron 3030. It is a modern day conceptual masterpiece that should be heard by everyone. The ease of accessibility leaves no excuse to not give it a chance and the more it is analyzed the more it resonates. All three of these galactic space warriors are heroes on their own. When combined they are a serious force to be reckoned with.
Conceptually and performance-wise this is just sublime.

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Track List:

State Of The Nation
3030
The Fantabulous Rap Extravaganza
Things You Can Do
Positive Contact
St. Catherine St.
Virus
Upgrade (A Brymar College Course)
New Coke
Mastermind
National Movie Review
Madness
Meet Cleofis Randolph The Patriarch
Time Keeps On Slipping
The News (A Wholly Owned Subsidiary Of Microsoft, Inc)

Turbulence
The Fantabulous Rap Extravaganza Part II)
Battlesong
Love Story
Memory Loss
The Assmann 640 Speaks)