Obsidian Kingdom – Mantiis – 91%

Mantiis cover art

Cutting right to the chase, Obsidian Kingdom‘s latest release, ‘Mantiis‘ could very well be the most equivocal album I have reviewed to date. What this five piece post-metal band from Barcelona has put together with their latest genre-crossing, boundary pushing release is something few other bands can lay claim to accomplishing. I can’t even began to describe the number of different genres represented throughout this 47 minute monstrosity of an album.

“Not Yet Five” is the album’s opener and starts things off with looming bass, light distortion, piano work and sporadic beeps and buzzes that all blend together to create an eerie ambiance that sets the mood for things to come. From here the album progresses forward with “Oncoming Dark” and “Through the Glass” which start off which crisp clean vocals and electric-accoustic guitar work before evolving into a wanderlust of heaviness that borders between post-metal and progressive death metal. Keyboards play on in an evil manner and when combined with chugging guitars and persistent drumming a doomsday like atmosphere forms. As the album moves forward through the short tracks, it gains in intensity through it’s evolving layers. By the time the album reaches its fourth track, “Cinnamon Balls” it has already spiraled into a dark, twisted place filled with harsh demonic vocals and djent style guitar work.

A short piano interlude leads into “Answering Revealing” which brings the album full circle as clean vocals emerge as does a short but sweet return to Obsidian Kindgom‘s softer side. “Last of the Light” is where the album completely goes off of the tracks. While the beginning and end of the track are highlighted by violent vocals and double bass action, bookended between it is a several minute long section that features a classical guitar and with a very bluesy saxophone solo. You heard me right. This is without question one of if not the most unique song I have heard in years and definitely one of the most unusual combinations of instruments. From here ‘Mantiis‘ takes a stark transition to “Genteel to Mention”, a short track that opens with piano and clean vocals  that only last for a short while before the album returns right back to its doom and gloom heavier ways with the intro to “Awake Until Dawn”. The track does come to a crawl as it progresses when piano work mixed with synths present yet another unheard element to the album.

Mantiis‘ moves forward with “Haunts of the Underworld” showcasing the best guitar work to be found on the album  and “Endless Wall”, which feels like the closest thing to a post-metal track found on the album despite the hints of more djent guitar work. Clean vocals amidst swirly ambiance make up “Fingers in Anguish” and demonic vocals and downtuned guitars return in “Ball-room”, both short tracks that barely cross over the five-minute mark combined. “Ball-Room” does a fantastic job setting the table for the closing track “And Then It Was”. Stark, aggressive drumming leads the way as everything the album has built itself up for comes to a head in this epic finale.

One album I do think that compares particularly well to ‘Mantiis‘ is Crippled Black Phoenix‘s ‘Mankind, The Crafty Ape’. The two albums share many similarities in how they flow, how they use music as a journey to tell an album spanning story and also how they infuse many different genres into their sound while never delving down too far into a particular one. While CBF opted for a more psychedelic, bluesy infusion, Obsidian Kingdom chose a much darker, louder progressive death metal meets doom metal approach.

While fantastic in its storytelling, the album isn’t without its shortcomings. I found myself wishing the album flowed a little bit better as some of the transitions seemed a bit awkward. There are also times where I wished the clean vocals would have had a stronger presence throughout the album as the band’s softer material is among their strongest work. Still, I can overlook these minor nuances as I continually find myself coming back to this album time and time again. ‘Mantiis‘ is one of the more captivating albums I’ve heard all year and is without question a breath of fresh air. 12/20/12

Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://obsidiankingdom.bandcamp.com/

Band facebook: http://www.facebook.com/obsidiankingdom?fref=ts

Eversham – Eversham – 95%

Eversham cover art

The best post-rock holiday gift I received this year came courtesy of my recent decision to purchase Spotify premium. As I was three hours deep into a post-rock playlist I found, mostly spacing out to the familiarity of bands such as Caspian and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, an artist unbeknownst to me captured my imagination as my ears perked up. Not only did Eversham capture my full attention as I picked my jaw up off the floor, but they also managed to make me completely rewrite my top 10 albums of the 2012 list I’ve been working on for Postrockstar’s year-end staff picks article you’ll be reading in a week or two.

Eversham are a band formed by two brothers and a cousin from Canberra, Australia and their debut self titled release is an absolute masterpiece. Hearing “Barricade“, the first track on the album on Spotify is the best thing that happened to me this holiday season. This album is a big breath of fresh air for the post-rock genre . “Barricade” is a guitar-centric track that has an absolutely killer riff in the middle of the track that will leave you begging for more. “Symmetry” has a Collapse Under the Empire feel to it with stark piano work, explorative synths and a rhythmic consistent beat. Clean guitar work leads into distortion guitar layers in the tracks big finish as double bass action rumbles in the background. This is not the work of a band that isn’t even two years old. There are seasoned post-rock bands that can’t produce music this put together and complete.

“Of Southern Skies” is a laid back track ripe with extended crescendos that arc throughout much of the track. With “Trees Don’t Grow in Old Dead Countries” Eversham shows a more intense side with  downtuned technical guitar work that eventually branches out into brighter straight-forward Explosions in the Sky-esque sounding post-rock. The two combine towards the end of the track while a solo’ing guitar rips through it all to produce one hell of a finish. Sorry if I’m gushing a little. “Melancholia” is yet another solid track playing on the crescendo-core styling combined with the band’s signature guitar work. “Immortal Lies in Mortal Bodies” is an upbeat track that pushes the tempo and is ripe with deeply layered guitar work and technical drumming.

Spiritual Revolution” opens with a strange electronic intro before screeching  guitars make their presence felt. The main riff in this track is arguably one of the catchier riffs I’ve heard all year and probably borders a little on the prog-rock side. In fact, I find that a lot of the guitar work on this album is done with classic rock influence in mind. Finally the 8-track 48 minute album concludes with “The Absolute“, which stands the tallest at nine minutes long. Elegant piano work over a bed of synths makes a dramatic transition into whining guitars as strong bass finally makes an appearance as well in the lower end of the mix. The spacy guitar work is just deep enough that you can get almost get lost within the track’s deep layering. As the song ends it comes full circle by ending with the same piano and synth combination that it started with.

I’m fairly certain that despite being released earlier in the year, the discovery of this album is a late inning game changer as Postrockstar winds down our calendar year. There aren’t many albums that I would take time out of my Christmas day to write a review for to immediately publish on the site, completely bypassing our publishing schedule. The guitar work found within ‘Eversham’ is easily the most impressive work I’ve heard all year. Every track on this album comes with the ridiculous amount of technicality and craftsmanship that screams for attention and simply cannot be ignored. This is a must listen to release of 2012. 12/25/12

Available for $6 on bandcamp: http://eversham.bandcamp.com/

Eversham’s facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/EvershamMusic?ref=ts&fref=ts

We Always Think There Is Going To Be More Time: Unreviewed albums of 2012 pt 2

Unfortunately we weren’t able to review every single release that came out in 2012 that we would have liked to.  However, we still encourage you to check out the following bands and any others we might have missed as there are likely many gems still waiting to be discovered. This is installment #2 of this series.

Folding Leaves cover art

Message to Bears – ‘Folding Leaves’

Electronic ambient post-rock from London

available for $7 on bandcamp: http://messagetobears.com/album/folding-leaves

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/messagetobears

Martial Arts in the Time of Firearms cover art

Hannibal Montana – ‘Martial Arts in the Time of Firearms’

Aggressively instrumental post-punk/post-rock from New York

$5 on bandcamp: http://hannibalmontana.bandcamp.com/album/martial-arts-in-the-time-of-firearms

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hannibalmontana

The Stronger We Have Grown cover art

Plainfire – ‘The Stronger We Have Grown’

Blending ambient and softer passages with djent/progressive style riffs

Name your price on bandcamp: http://parkerloghry.bandcamp.com/album/the-stronger-we-have-grown

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/PlainFire/153539001366801

Kyte– ‘Love to be Lost’

Ambient electronic post/rock with a bit of a poppy side from the UK

Album available on Itunes

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kyteband

In The Key Of Night cover art

Au Revoir – ‘In The Key of Night’

New Jersey based post-rock band

Name your price on bandcamp: http://aurevoirit.bandcamp.com/music

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aurevoirit

Courtesy of Post-Rock(Facebook) : Top 300 songs + 50 bands deserving more attention playlists

Our friends Post-Rock on Facebook gave their 40,000+ followers a gigantic Holiday gift today by releasing two youtube playlists full of post-rock goodness. The first is their personal Top 300 post-rock tracks of all time that tallies up to an astounding 27 hours of music! The second playlist, which Postrockstar believes is the true gem, is their list of 50 bands that deserve more attention. As it’s always been Postrockstar’s goal to help smaller bands receive quality publicity and exposure, so naturally we support this playlist 100%.  Check them out!

Post-Rock (facebook) Top 300 Post-Rock Tracks of all time playlist

Post-Rock (facebook) 50 Bands That Deserve More Attention Playlist

2012 HOLIDAY CONTEST WINNERS!

All in all I’d like to thank everyone who sent in a ballot to be a part of our first annual Holiday contest! We received over 100 entries for the contest. Thank you for flooding our inbox with your entries and kind words. We collected a list of all the email addresses and sent them through http://wwww.Random.org.  Here are the results…..

Grand Prize Winner ($25 post-rock shopping Spree):

Jessica Hunter

2nd Place Winner (Autographed Late Night Venture CD)

Ryan Gallagher

3rd Place Winner (Copy of Australasia’s SIN4TR4 EP)

杨慧 (Stephnie)

If your name is listed above, congratulations and be sure to check your inbox later this weekend for an email! Our next contest will be similar to this format and be held in the spring. Thanks again to everyone and Happy Holidays from the Postrockstar team!

Holiday contest winners to be posted Monday

We apologize for the delay in announcing winners for the Holiday contest. A wordpress error prevented a scheduled posting from being published to the site yesterday afternoon resulting in that posting being lost in the system for all of eternity. Unfortunately none of us are available this weekend to properly rewrite that posting (I’m currently writing this quick update from an iphone!), so results will be delayed until tomorrow afternoon. Very sorry to those who are anxiously awaiting the results.

*Ancients – Star Showers on the Euphrates – 83%

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-hEnfmcj0KNE/T_QCw_5K0EI/AAAAAAAAD8Q/254hDxw4Bpo/s320/Ancients+-+Star+Showers+On+The+Euphrates+(2012).jpeg

*Ancients are a post-rock supergroup formed from the ashes of atmospheric metal band Rinoa. Along for the ride are drummer Daniel Hoang of Crydebris and Mehdi Safa of *shels. With this, ‘Star Showers on the Euphrates’ is an expansive exploration into atmosphere and bombast.

This primarily instrumental album begins in an understated fashion, with background static laying the foundations for softly-plucked guitar and gentle strings — an opening that can only be described as elegant. Here, we are introduced to a musical palette awash with beauty and restraint. But this is a little misleading. Before long, “Satellites” declares the band’s uncompromising hastiness towards volume and attempted impact, exploiting a soft-loud dynamic so beaten and predictable that any attempts at power come across as somewhat contrived. Make no mistake: many post-rock bands are guilty of this, and as a complaint, it is nothing new. What makes it more frustrating in the case of *Ancients is that the band’s potential for greatness is undeniable. *Ancients was born of a pedigree whose artistic credibility is unmatched by most. Further to this point, every sonic element that is presented in “Satellites” (and the album entirely) is expertly-crafted — the guitars are triumphant and the drums pound like thunder — and that only serves to render its corridor-like progression all the more disappointing. What’s more, this same description can simply be reapplied to the following two tracks, “Arcturus” and “Constellations” — start soft; end loud. These songs aren’t bad by any means (in fact “Constellations” is so wonderfully massive that it almost shatters the stars for which it reaches); they simply fail to meet their stratospheric potential due to somewhat uninspired song-writing. Where *Ancients might be better off accruing gratifying builds with timely anticipation, they instead trade all of this for premature, albeit thunderous, explosions. Sadly when you see an explosion coming from a mile off, it rarely makes you flinch.

With “Icarus”, the band seemingly learns from their earlier mishaps, producing an ambient track that allows itself to simply be, without any premature urge to explode. This is 10 minutes of (presumably) Stars of the Lid-inspired quiet drone. “Icarus” is a nice song to level out the pace of the album. It might be argued that *Ancients have stretched too far in the other direction here, as the track tends to drag more than it drifts; however as a means to give the album some variety, purpose and the sensation of traversal, “Icarus” serves the band well as a whole.

With the album closer, things take a turn for the spectacular. “Cassiopeia” is a 24-minute demonstration of atmospheric post-rock perfection. The ‘song’ is comprised of three separate sections (we’ll call them movements), each with a distinct artistic approach. The first movement takes cues from the earlier tracks on the album, with its loud, soaring guitars and gun-shot drum rolls. The production here is absolutely stellar, and although it does little to break from the mould set with previous tracks, it does what it does exceptionally well.

With each movement, “Cassiopeia” only gets better and better, culminating in a beautifully melodic song that, had it appeared on ‘Valtari’, would have been remembered as one of the most sensational pieces of music that Sigur Rós ever recorded — it’s that stunning. Fans of *Ancients‘ 2011 single release of “Constellations” will recognise this movement as B-side “De Stella Nova”: one of the best post-rock songs of last year. Notice that until now I have yet to mention Mehdi Safa’s vocals, and that is because they are rarely ever treated as a major component of the music — they act to supplement, rather than drive the instruments behind which they are imposed. Contrarily, “De Stella Nova” (or, “Cassiopeia — part 3”) makes the most of the *shels frontman’s earnest vocals, and they sound more beautiful and emotional than they ever have before.

Between the energetic bombardment of “Cassiopeia”‘s first movement and the serene beauty of its closing moments lies an ambient soundscape that is truly breathtaking. Much with the same intention as “Icarus” but with vastly greater success, the second movement of “Cassiopeia” floats through 10 minutes of spacious aural euphoria. Like standing on a desolate and beautiful planet bereft of all life, this sparse song is almost devoid of anything describable, but it inspires much more than anything around it ever could. It’s almost silent, recalling and even exceeding the most awe-inspiring moments of Hammock‘s more gentle compositions. Fans of Good Weather for an Airstrike‘s “Underneath the Stars” will feel right at home with this movement.

Can a closing cavalcade of unrivalled bliss make up for the more than 15 minutes of post-rock predictability that precedes it? Perhaps not entirely, but that doesn’t mean to say that this album isn’t worth your attention. Had “Cassiopeia” been released as an independent single or EP, I might be quick to declare it a masterpiece. As it happens, it took *Ancients half an album’s-worth of painting by numbers (however exuberant those acrylics might be) to stumble upon their true calling. Should this supergroup’s next attempt more wholly embrace their ambient inclinations, then they might just make a huge impact on the underground music scene. Until then, they’ll simply remain a decent post-rock band who play along, although beautifully, to an exhausted formula, with flashes of brilliance.

Available in MP3 format for $7 on bandcamp

*Ancients can be found on Facebook here