show review: SubT – Autonomy, RLYR, United Nations, Coliseium

Autonomy at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015
Autonomy at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015 (drum brother in back) – photo credit: Drumnmike

I only have a few drum brothers, but Chris Avgerin is one of them.  We first met around 2008/09 when my band arbogast (for the love of god there’s 2 different arbogast bands on Spoitfy.  We’re all lowercase letters and a LOT different than those foreign dudes) played with his group Blood of the Tyrant and Heaving Mass.  Throughout the years he’s supported me with my various projects and I’ve done the same with him.  When he couldn’t perform at 2 Brothers brewery with his band Belleisle I filled in on drums for him, learning 20 some indie pop songs within 2 weeks.  Drum brother.

Anywho, that’s how Aaron, bassist of aforementioned arbogast, CaSK, and now Marinoan reminded me Chris was playing Friday at the Subterranean.  We walked in during the first song of Autonomy’s set, and was surprised.  Every time I see Chris play he seems to be with a different style band. Whether it be heavy metal, mid tempo metal, speed metal, prog rock (although I’ve just heard them, haven’t seen them), how surprised could I actually have been seeing him play with an 80’s new wave goth punk band. The bass player switched between keys and bass, and the singer had self deprecating humor about his band.  “Stick around for the good bands” he joked.  Chris per usual tore it up, mostly in the mid tempo range but the dude is always solid, and always gives exactly what’s needed for the band.  Last show I saw him play was in Nequient which was the speed metal band, and he tore it up, exactly what the music needed.  On Friday he tore it up in the exact way the music needed.  Dude can play.

RLYR at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015
RLYR at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015 – photo credit: Drumnmike

Next was RLYR featuring members of Pelican, Russian Circles, Locrian and Bloodiest. This band took the feel of those groups and did their own thing, as a 3 piece. They’re not in a rush to get where they’re going, and they take you on a walk through the mud.  Getting stuck every couple feet with pine and random tree branches scraping your face.  It was my first time hearing them and I was not dissapoint.  During their 30 some minute set they played 4 songs max.  They were clearly epic.  It was instrumental, heavy, loud, and they did a great job doing it.

United Nations at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015
United Nations at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015- photo credit: Drumnmike

This band was also a first exposure for me, and they freaking ripped.  Especially right after the slow build of RLYR these guys were a great compliment to make you pay attention.  They had mostly shorter songs, but they jumped between death metal, technical metal and metal riffs.  As with most bands with a singer, he used the space between songs to talk and share his views of the world.  A few times when he sang I couldn’t put my finger on why he sounded so familiar, but drum brother Chris tipped me off to the fact they have rotating members, but Geoff Rickly, the singer from Thursday does the yelling in this group.  Pretty cool someone of that stature still tours small clubs with a power violence group.  Even more interesting was after they played, because of course I’m considerate of the people around me during shows, I read up on their Wikipedia page about their controversies. Of course having such a name as a band would lead to some issues that follow it, and the revolving yet not naming of members is quite an interesting way of moving forward as a band without getting in trouble.  Geoff makes a valid point stating that punk has gotten pretty safe and so continuing to tow the line between getting in trouble and not makes them that much more intriguing.  The music was extremely intense, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Which I am.

Colesium at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015
Colesium at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015 – photo credit: Drumnmike

Lastly was Colesium, touring in support of their new release Anxiety’s Kiss.  As Aaron put it, they were refreshing.  They weren’t over the top on anything, they didn’t pull back on anything, but they were straight forward mid tempo rock, with a tendency towards the heavy side.  arbogast was lucky enough to play with them back in 2013 when Aaron and I were trying to push on with a temporary guitarist, and it was cool to see them again without having to worry about loading out gear. The guys have some of the coolest merch, typically focusing on cats and skulls, a shirt I purchased when we played with them. I must also add that one of my favorite things about SubT is that the shows are typically played on the 2nd floor (I know right) and surrounding the floor is a general admission balcony, so if maybe too many people are in your way or you just want a different view of the show you can enjoy it from above.  Although the views may be better from above, I had to walk down 1/4 through their set because the sound is a lot better on the floor.  Twas a cool show with a good blend of rock and metal styles, but still a lot of black shirts.

Colesium at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015
Colesium at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015 – photo credit: Drumnmike
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show review:Snarky Puppy – Pritzker Pavilion (Chicago – June 25th, 2015)

150626 - snarky puppy pritzker, dude in front
150626 – snarky puppy pritzker, dude in front: photo credit Drumnmike

No good conversation in Chicago starts without the weather, so I’ll address that first.

It’s been raining heavily lately, with tornado’s touching down earlier in the week just outside of the city.  Some solar storms headed our way and thus the weather has been nuts.  There was a major thunderstorm the previous night and the outlook for the the day of the show was not good, with the weather channel calling for rain just before the show started.  We arrived around 6:05 (I’m estimating) and found a seat about 20 feet back from the front of the lawn. We brought peanuts and red wine.  Obviously.  My love for peanuts will soon become apparent.

Shortly after we arrived it started to drizzle. The drizzle continued for 10 minutes, then it was done.  I was relieved to not be sitting in a lawn soaked to the bone, with wet peanuts.  The rain stayed away for the remainder of the night but as you can see down the post a nice fog moved in, engulfing the buildings in front of us.

At 6:30 they started the show and Third Coast Percussion played what must have been a Steve Reich song, as they played a monotonous, lovely mostly percussive piece for at least 45 minutes.  (in time I’ll get on my game with this review thing, I’m sharing my experiences) Members of Snarky Puppy joined them on stage, but as you can see by the above picture, I had a difficult time making anyone out, as this dude started the standing, then slowly throughout the song everyone from different walks of life chose to stand there.  Why get the front most spot if you’re going to stand?  But anyways.

Snarky Puppy came on and tore it up.  I first heard of them through a Drumeo video with their drummer, Larnell Lewis.  Shortly after watching this video during a conversation with a good friend he mentioned he’s been listening to them a lot lately.  Shortly after that one of my drum students mentioned he’d been listening to them, since they’re playing Millennium Park.  I tell ya, you need the young kids around always to help keep you in the loop.

After the first conversation I gave everything they have on spotify a listen.  It’s a jazz funk hip hop type of thing, with great musicians whom all have played and continue to play with some bigger names in the music BIZ.  Not that you can necessarily hear those influences straight up, but they’re sought after in their own accord. Thus combining them to form a type of supergroup, if you will, they really know what they’re doing.  Hearing them on recording is one thing, but to truly experience them in the live setting is a whole new experience.  Not just because it’s cool to realize that 20-somethings really enjoy this type of music, but experiencing it live gives a whole new type of movement to the music, which could otherwise be lost in a purely audio setting.  Don’t get me wrong, the music still swings on their releases, but experiencing it helps gives another appreciation for it.

150626 - snarky puppy pritzker, the fog engulfs the skyline: photo credit Drumnmike
150626 – snarky puppy pritzker, the fog engulfs the skyline: photo credit Drumnmike

They played around an hour and a half, coming back on for an encore (I think it was Lingus?) with 2 of the members wearing Blackhawks jersey’s.  The sets continued to be lively, with each member receiving their own time to solo.  Being a drummer watching Larnell and their percussionist tear it up on a few occasions were a site to behold.  I would’ve loved to see them the previous 2 nights at City Winery, and I could only imagine what type of energy would be happening in such a tight environment, but given the giant space and beauty that is the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, they did an excellent job transforming their energy to the crowd.

150626 - Foggy Chicago Sky line photo credit Drumnmike
150626 – Foggy Chicago Sky line photo credit Drumnmike

album review:Sithu Aye – Invent the Universe

listen here.
Hopefully by now you’ve realized I don’t review current material.  Through the magic of spotify I’m able to find material I missed when it was first released, check it out and pass it along.  I have a constant love and need to explore the new music that’s available, as well the stuff that I might have missed when it first came out.  I’m always looking and am interesting in hearing bands you like in the comments or drumnmiker (at) gmail DOT com.

They’re a Djent style band, with progressive metal, instrumental and even electronica as their subcategories.  To borrow from Wikipedia, “Djent /ˈɛnt/[1] is a style of heavy metal music that developed as a spin-off of traditional progressive metal.[2][3] The word “djent” is an onomatopoeia for the distinctive high-gain, distorted palm-muted, low pitch guitar sound most notably employed by bands like Meshuggah and Sikth.” If that’s not your thing, move along.

Being a student of punk rock before metal I’m more prone to like music with blemishes, but that’s just my affinity for punk.  This release sounds almost too perfect with no out of place notes or hits.  The release starts with a dramatic, electronic build into the opening real snare hit, where the band kicks in and the rock begins. They play around with electronics later in the song and touch on it later in the album, but electronics are by no means the main focus, just something to punctuate the breakdowns.  The entire album is full of shredding solos, double bass drumming and crazy fills. Although this is metal and the music is certainly heavy, it’s definitely on the cleaner side of metal.  This is to progressive metal as Chon is to progressive rock.  The lack of vocals keep this music cleaner while still keeping it heavy.  They never go into the faster side of metal, staying mostly in the mid tempo range but typically upbeat. They even veer off into dance for a bit.

This is a solid album with cool musicianship. It’s a cohesive piece of music that ebbs and flows and has some differing moods, whilst still remaining heavy. If you’re looking for something a little less aggressive but still on the heavy side check it out.

album review: Chon – Grow

listen here.
my buddy Nate, a musician and former band mate, current chef and good dude, turned me onto this band when he saw them open for Circa Survive a few months back.

I’m somewhat conflicted by this band.  I’m a big fan of progressive style music where almost all the playing is one giant solo, but the tones they use are different than what you’d expect.  These guys to me sound like a smooth jazz version of Save us From the Archon, a band who’s album will be reviewed soon.  The majority of the songs are instrumental and the 2 vocal songs almost sound out of place.  They work, but the band calms down on these tracks and makes the songs a little easier to digest for most folks. The album was promoted via Red Bull so I’ll assume they wanted something more easily digestible.  Or I’m cynical.

It’s an enjoyable release through it’s entirety. It could pass as an album on a chilled playlist, but could also pass on a more upbeat playlist.  The 2nd vocal song, Echo, sounds fairly similar to a R&B song.  You can probably put this on your girlfriend/wife’s playlist as a song that she may like to try and get her into other music. I can’t quite place what song it sounds like so if anyone knows please post a spotify or youtube clip.

One of my favorite things about bands like this is actually watching them perform the music, and the tightness that’s required to fully bring it. I’ve never seen them live so if anyone has any insight I’d be curious to hear about it.

**After doing additional reading about these fellas it looks like a couple of these songs are re-recorded from their EP’s and 2 tracks feature Matt Garstka from Animals as Leaders. I’m not offended when bands re-record songs that they put on an EP because typically those release don’t get as much attention.  If they felt they could rework them better I’m happy to see them take a stab at them.  Also Matt rules.

This was their first official full length, although they’ve released a few EP’s since 2008.  As with Between the Buried & Me, I’m excited to hear their progression through the years.  Follow them on their FB page for updates.

album review: Stanton Moore – Conversations

listen here.
My first exposure to Stanton was on a Drumeo free lesson, in which the man showed his chops and clearly had a wonderful time playing the drums.  The picture of him smiling on this cover isn’t an act: this dude is happy playing the drums.  To see this much joy come from someone doing something almost makes me feel uneasy, but it should be something to aspire to.

He jokes about this in the Drumeo video but this guy has probably one of the loosest snare drums ever recorded.  Artistic choice, why not do it. He also grew up in Louisiana, which helps put the style of jazz on this release into perspective (new orleans/ragtime).

Now I have a hard time listening to ‘newer’ jazz and blues, not because I don’t think it’s good, but I just have such an affection towards Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Art Blakey, etc that I feel like the pinnacle of jazz was hit some 60 years ago, and now we’re all trying to play catch up to what they’ve done, but all in the spirit of respecting what they’ve done. This just puts me in an odd perspective when wanting to enjoy the music, because most times when I’ll listen to newer jazz I hear those older musicians in their music and would rather listen to that stuff. There’s probably no way to write this paragraph and not sound pompous, but I poured a lot of time into the original masters and their music really hit home with me.

But that being said, this is a solid effort.  This music pays respect to those musicians with the style, but takes on a ragtime, more melodic style, instead of the typical scale and improvisation back and forth.  The also leave Mr Moore a lot of room to breathe and create rhythms that aren’t similar to the typical drum patterns and styles from the 50’s, etc.  In this regard the album is strongest. The majority of the songs have space for a drum solo and that remains the constant throughout the release.  I mean, what would you expect when the album is named after the drummer?  Most songs are upbeat and Stanton easily carries the tunes, with the piano and bass complimenting his playing. The drum solo breakdowns are all different showing off his versatility in playing.

This album is strongest with the drummer crowds, but the piano playing is reminiscent of old saloon and ragtime style, with compliments from the bass.  This can fit in easily with other straight forward jazz artists (Louis Armstrong, etc) and if you know how to do the Charleston this could work as dance music, too.  You can find more of his work at his website.

album review:Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence

"The Parallax II Future Sequence - Between the Buried and Me" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Parallax_II_Future_Sequence_-_Between_the_Buried_and_Me.jpg#/media/File:The_Parallax_II_Future_Sequence_-_Between_the_Buried_and_Me.jpg listen here.
Typically any ‘metal’ band that has a name longer than 1 or 2 words isn’t typically just a metal band.  Progressive Metal is probably the best description, although the music veers to technical death metal, progressive rock, and acoustic with pretty vocals. This album also has them incorporating non-typical instrumentation, such as strings .  The heavy parts bring it to spazz style death metal with extremely aggressive guttural yells, quickly switching to slower more melodic breakdowns showing off the singing prowess of Tommy Giles Rogers.

The album can only be called epic, with this being a strong example for bands to see that the more releases you put out the tighter you’ll all become and the stronger your vision as a band becomes.  Sometimes bands are able to achieve that within their first few albums, but there’s nothing wrong with continuing to hone your vision until you produce your masterpiece.

As to be expected of a band switching so smoothly between different genres some of the parts can come off as strange and sometimes too out there.  Every time I listen to Bloom I can’t help but be recalled of the Flight of Bumblebee, whether intentional or not.  Maybe I’m even missing out on a joke. It then jumps to a 60’s doo wop style before jumping to a Mr Bungle style breakdown.

Five of the twelve songs on the album are nearing if not over 10 minutes long, producing creating a 74 minute epic.  The longer songs do a great job creating different movements and producing “mini-symphonies”, as stated by about.com.

All of the musicians are very talented at what they do.  Being a drummer I have to give a special shout out to Blake Richardson and the insanity he creates behind the kit. He’s great at capturing how to play metal, but also adds textures to the non-metal riffs, effectively using ghost notes, cymbals as sounds instead of bashing the heck out of them and all together cohesiveness.

They’ll be releasing a new album July 7th called Coma Ecliptic. With the growth they’ve shown through the years it’ll be interesting to hear what boundaries they’ll push with the new release.

album review: This is Cinema – Cycle

This is Cinema  listen here.
“The group took shape when songwriter Ben Babbitt invited engineer Theo Karon to move his recording studio into the basement of Hotel Earth, a Chicago coach house shared by a number of musicians and artists. The musician/engineer relationship quickly turned into a full-on collaborative songwriting and recording effort, frequently joined by an ever-evolving circle of contributors.” from the Whistler website.

Similar to the boy on the cover his at peace, yet unnerving look on his face sets the tone for this release.  The album takes a straight forward, yet creepy feel getting it’s point across, focusing on monotonous yet driving drum rhythms with a constant build and layering of instruments and sounds.  Let’s not forget reverb. The vocals in this album are used like an instrument instead of creating an ‘obvious’ melody or hook.  They’re ambient and elongated with background vocals added to provide extra depth. One of my favorite tracks, Hands Can Grow, turns into an almost industrial-african electronic percussive drum loop, climaxing the album.

The last song is a great resolution, ending with strings and delayed ambiance for an unnerving settling to the album.  It’s a shame there was only one release as it would have been interesting to hear the growth of the collaboration. Even as a one off it’s a solid effort if you’re looking for something to be challenged with and still chill to. LP’s can be purchased via.

album review: Ulver – Messe I.X -VI.X

listen here.

The cover of this album perfectly sums up the music: an eerily, ambient, black metal classical album.

Ulver is a Norwegian band as the main project of vocalist Kristoffer Rygg.  Ulver is typically known for their black metal style, but have a knack through the years exploring different genres (industrial, gothic metal, sythn rock, psychedelic rockacoustic, ambient).  Messe I.X – VI.X was released in collaboration with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra.   It’s an epic ambient electronic masterpiece that sounds like a black metal band took the themes they’ve been perfecting and recorded the album with strings and electronics.  The music could easily be used in a horror movie soundtrack.

Messe has a natural arch, climaxing at Son of Man with vocals taking center stage to lead the song.  The rest of album resolves into a mellow resolution, bringing back the ambiance in a type of closure to the work.

Admittedly my first exposure to them was Messe I.X – VI.X and so coming in with a clean slate I enjoy what they accomplished.  If I were a long time fan I could see the changing of genres as a typically frustrating experience, unaware of which band would show up on the next album.  However  the only constant is change, and for an artist to put out 21 albums it could be monotonous to release the same piece over and over again. Props to the dude for continually challenging himself.