It’s New to Elliot: as suggested by Melissa Carrington
Melissa is married to my good friend Joe. They met in 2003 or ’04, somewhere around there. I think Melissa would be the first to admit that she doesn’t let people get to know her very easily, so I had to do my work for a long time, but eventually she opened up a lot more. We’ve had really great talks about all manners of subject, and anytime her and Joe come back to Des Moines for a visit, they come and see us. That means a lot. We make connections with so many people in our lives, but we only keep those connections with a precious few, and it’s nice to know that Melissa likes us enough to tolerate our presence.
I haven’t talked much with Melissa about music, and that’s evident in my total surprise at the list she gave me this week. Let’s just say it’s not easy listening. I had no idea she was into such crazy stuff, but crazy stuff is always welcome around here.
Rotting Christ — Kata ton Daimona Eautou
That Greek album title means both “do as thou wilt,” Aleister Crowley’s life motto, as well as “true to your own spirit.” What cannot be disputed is SATAN IS GREAT or something like that (their view, not mine!). Rotting Christ does a power-rock version of black metal that emphasizes beefed-up guitars and weird vocals, not the wispy screechy type you usually hear. Vocalist Sakis Tolis can do military barks, guttural screams, and a chanting sort of like the Wicked Witch’s guards in Wizard of Oz (“oh-wee-oh,” you know what I mean). He also sings with deep pipes, and it’s those moments that get a little too butt-rock for me, just barely. The record is almost an hour long and it uses many riffs that mostly drone on one note, with changes here and there. I like it, mostly because I was expecting to be bummed out by an aggressively Satanic message, but the songs are pretty fun. Maybe that ol’ Satan is a fun guy too, I’ll have to look into him a bit more!
My Opinion: 7/10
Solstafir — Otta
Okay, so take a look at those guys up there. If you were to judge based off their style, you’d think they were an insane steampunk metal band or something, right?
Wrong! Shockingly, Solstafir is actually a moody, piano-laden post-rock gentle metal thing. I dunno, I guess people from Iceland just wear whatever they want with no regard for style or logic. That same freedom from restriction comes through in Solstafir’s music — I struggled with what to call it because I really have no idea. There are big atmospheric rock parts that swell toward crescendos, sort of like a rock’n’roll Explosions in the Sky, and then there are long soundscape parts where nothing happens, and then it gets a bit heavy and the singer sings not super well but with Icelandic gusto. Not every minute is perfect, but I liked that they’re trying to do something cool with whatever post-rock is supposed to be. I suppose that’s what happens when you live on a tiny, isolated, freezing island — you do things your own way.
My Opinion: 7/10
Eluveitie — Origins
If I didn’t have friends like Melissa, I would never know about ridiculous bands like Eluveitie, a Swiss band that can only be described as folk metal. They have fast metal riffs like At the Gates, big metalcore choruses like Killswitch Engage, yet they also work in fiddles, tin whistles and something called a “hurdy gurdy,” which is indeed a real thing (I looked it up). This creates a sometimes dizzying effect — the riffs are moving so quickly, fiddles and tin whistles are swirling around, and I feel like might pass out. Thankfully, the entire record isn’t like that. It’s very metal, and I am often a sucker for chunky breakdowns and chunky riffs as long as there’s not too much dumb stuff surrounding them. Eluveitie does do some dumb stuff, but I have to forgive them for it simply because this is just so damn odd and memorable. Again, my friends are weird and into weird stuff, and I am lucky that they share their weird stuff with me.
My Opinion: 6/10
Astronoid — Air
Ever wondered what would happen if that high-voiced dork from Circa Survive joined a black metal band and made them slightly happier? Oh, you haven’t? Good, because you shouldn’t, but unfortunately these guys in Astronoid did just that. They took the formula that Deafheaven perfected a few years ago — black metal rituals with sunshiney guitars and melodies — but slathered the Coheed and Cambria prissy emo sauce all over it, and for that I cannot forgive them. The fast black metal beat shows up a lot, but too often breaks down into high-voiced choruses that sound designed to get teenage girls screaming. Astronoid has painted themselves into a corner where only lame metal nerds (and Melissa) are going to dig it, and not necessarily the teen emo kids for whom much of this seems intended. Props to Astronoid for potentially confusing kids with bad taste, but I ain’t in on this one.
My Opinion: 4/10
Communist Daughter — The Cracks That Built the Wall
When Joe and Melissa were in town a few months ago, they went to the Vaudeville Mews to see Communist Daughter, whom Melissa had discovered online and wanted to check out. She assumed it would be a packed house, but because this is Des Moines and we’re sometimes way behind, there was a tiny crowd. This information made me very sympathetic while listening to this record, because I always feel bad when bands play to basically no one.
But I kind of understand why a band like Communist Daughter couldn’t draw much of a crowd in Des Moines. They are the epitome of play-it-safe indie rock. It gets upbeat in spots and you could maybe dance to one or two songs, but it’s overall just not quite enough. The male singer’s voice is that lightweight falsetto thing that makes me immediately lose interest. The female singer is way more interesting, but she only gets featured on one or two songs. And yeah, it’s just…decent. Totally decent. I can’t even get excited enough about it to give it a 6. I can’t see anyone having a passionate debate about this band, except maybe Melissa, and again I am very sorry for being a jerk about things she likes.
My Opinion: 5/10