Dec. 8Diablo Swing Orchestra, “Pacifisticuffs”Diablo Swing Orchestra is one of the most exhilarating bursts of fresh style that I have found recently. Imagine a combination of Danny Elfman’s Oingo Boingo and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, with lush production allowing myriad of instrumental elements to both breathe and have their own place in the mix, then you have a good idea of what DSO is all about. They are put in the avant-garde metal genre by most listeners, but don’t let that label make you think the music will be obtuse and hard to get into. DSO records are always catchy, with every element that comes to mind from their name being present in every song. This is the first album to feature singer Kristin Evegård, replacing long standby AnnLouice Lögdlund, and while I do miss Lögdlund’s powerful falsetto, Evegård brings another level of catchiness with her own distinct style. “Age of The Vulture Culture” is an aggressive earworm, with Evegård imploring for a place for her to call her own over wonderful fiddle, brass, cello, and who knows what else. If you want something new, check this one out.
Shpongle, “Codex VI”Shpongle has consistently pushed the envelope when it comes to electronic dance music. Pioneering the “psybient” style, their own blend of psytrance and ambient music, Shpongle’s Simon Posford and Raja Ram always bring a really cool mix of world music, ambient guitars, and heavy bass rhythms. The record is long as well, with five of the nine tracks sitting above the eight-minute mark. “Empty Branes” is probably my favorite track on the record, and the one most indicative of its intent. Some wonderful choral chanting creates the backbone of the ambiance, with plucked sitar and flute providing the melodic centerpiece, along with some spoken word samples about the fifth dimension and the nature of existence. Shpongle have never shied away from their psychedelic and heady inspiration, and the album artwork serves as ample inspiration for the drugs you should be taking to amplify your listening experience. The only thing weighing down this record is its tempo. I think it relies a bit too heavily on the dub reggae tempo without mixing it up at all, and some variance would add a couple breaths of fresh air on a wonderful recording.
Yob, “The Great Cessation”The mighty Yob, one of the greatest purveyors of doom metal in the long and storied history of the genre, has decided to remaster arguably one of the best metal records of the past decade, their 2009 return from the dead, “The Great Cessation.” The most notable thing that this remaster has done is bring the bass back into the mix. In the original release, it was a bit muddied with the already murky and heavy guitar tracks, but in the remaster, the bass shines, giving an already heavy album even more weight. Yob has always stood out in my mind for two reasons: First is the embrace of Middle Eastern scales and intonation, which gives the record an immediate identity outside of most Black Sabbath worship projects. Second is vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt’s unique voice. His growl is nothing to scoff at, but his Geddy Lee-inspired vocals over the trance-inducing guitars make for one of the most interesting listening experiences in the doom metal world.
Other notable releases: A tribute to Jim James, Juicy J, Chris Thile, Luke Bryan, Shovels and Rope, War of Ages, and a live Collective Soul record.