Yes, it’s time again for another installment in our irregular “Eye-Catchers” series. In case you’ve forgotten, this is both an ongoing experiment and a vehicle for discovering new music. The experiment is designed to test the completely illogical hypothesis that cool album art tends to correlate with cool music. There’s really no reason why the two should go together, but in our experience, they do go together more often than not.
Of course, our experience is completely random and anecdotal, with no statistical significance behind it at all, and undoubtedly the day will come when we’ll see a cool cover and then run for the vomitorium after we start listening to the tunes. But since we started this experiment back in April, most of our test cases have validated the hypothesis.
This experiment also provides a way for us to explore new music that we otherwise might not discover. We see eye-catching album art, and based on nothing but that, we go listen to the music.
As we explained in an earlier post, as a way of picking new music, it’s like throwing a dart at a dartboard or putting a quarter in a slot machine and pulling the handle. It makes no logical sense, except there’s so much new music from so many new bands out in the world that randomization sometimes seems as good a way as any to make choices.
Today we’ve got two test cases — two bands we had never heard before. The first one is a band from Poitiers, France, called Klone. They recently released their third full-length album, Black Days, on Season of Mist. The album cover is at the top of this post.
The second one is an unsigned band from Oregon called Arkhum, and they’re on the verge of releasing their first album, Anno Universum, in August.
How did these bands fare in our Eye-Catchers test? Read on after the jump to find out (and, for your trouble, we’ll have some music for you to hear . . .)
Go on, admit it: the cover of Klone’s release is pretty fucking cool, isn’t it? I might have preferred to see one or two of the four eyes open, but that’s a minor quibble.
The artist is a young woman from Canada who goes by the moniker Agardnas, and you can see more of her eye-catching artwork at her MySpace page.
What about the music? Well, it’s not my usual cuppa tea, which tends toward the more skull-pulping leaves grown on the jagged crags of Tartarus. For one thing, there’s a lot of more-or-less clean singing. For another thing, the album includes a cover of a Björk song (“Army of Me”). “Bjööööörk!” is usually the sound I’ve made whenever I’ve heard a Björk song.
But, unexpectedly, I’m really diggin Klone. At a very high level (like, from space), the music straddles a line between the darker side of progressive metal and Chevelle-style hard rock. The instrumentalists are sharp and technically impressive, and even when his vocals are clean, Yann Ligner has an invigorating edge to his voice.
The songs cover a wide range, from crosses between doom and prog, to melodic headbanging anthems, to dark dreams of hypnotic ambiance. Depending on the song, we’re reminded of Tool or Neurosis or Opeth or the afore-mentioned Chevelle — and sometimes even the “dancing elephants” stomp of Gojira (coincidentally, Gojira’s Joe Duplantier appeared as a guest vocalist on an earlier Klone album).
We know we’ve got some readers that listen to more progressive metal than we do, and therefore have a more discriminating set of ears. We’d be curious to see what you think of this band, if you feel up to leaving a comment. Here’s one of the heavier tracks off Black Days:
But don’t stop there. Klone is offering a free download of a live performance of their previous album, All Seeing Eye. You can find the download link at the band’s official web page. That same page features a player that will allow you to stream five of the songs from Black Days.
Now, here’s a good-quality video of Klone playing “Spiral Down” (another one of the heavier tracks off Black Days). We presume this is included on the Live DVD that comes as a bonus when you buy a physical copy of the album:
P.S. Klone’s cover of “Army of Me” sounds a shitload better than the original.
And now, for our next test-case, here’s the album cover for the forthcoming release by that band from Oregon:
We’re not sure what this cover is supposed to represent, but we like it! Cool colors, scaly, tentacle-looking things, a window opening to another dimension, an unrecognizable band logo, and some other weirdness that’s open to even more interpretation.
What’s also cool is that the art is a digitally touched-up painting by a friend of the band’s, Abram Hurd, who also happens to be in an Oregon-based doom-metal band called Rye Wolves. (We’ve listened to what’s available on their MySpace, and it’s pretty fucking cool, too.) Generally, we hate people who have multiple talents (since we’re still trying to find our first one).
As for the music, all we have to go on at the moment are rough mixes of three songs on the band’s MySpace page. Those songs, plus others, were tracked by the band and are currently being mixed for the album release by Jason Walton of Agalloch, Sculptured, and ELS fame.
Rough mixes are called “rough” for a reason. The volume rises and falls (not by design), the drums often have a muffled sound, and you’ll hear other deficiencies. But even with those drawbacks, Arkhum’s three songs grabbed us by the throat.
“Obsolescent Husk” features bludgeoning chainsaw riffs, stutter-step tempo changes, swirling and screeching guitar solos, and a mix of subterranean gutturals and black-metal style acidic rasps. Whisps of tremolo picking from that song reappear in “Obviated Geocentrism” and the tech-death instrumentation rises to heightened levels of acrobatic athleticism. “Trance of the Multitude” manages to preserve a groove despite the flashy instrumental work and the whipsaw surges of guitar shrieking and shredding, and those uber-deep gutturals tag-team with serrated howling.
Listening to these rough cuts puts us in mind of bands like The Faceless, Ulcerate, and Augury, which is some damned fine company. On the inventiveness scale, Arkhum isn’t quite in the league of those bands — yet — but they’ve got impressive technical chops and a feel for how to deploy those skills without destroying the structure and cohesiveness that makes a song a “song”.
Anno Universum is due for release on August 20, and it will be fun to hear how the rough mixes morph into finished tracks. We’ll come back to this band with a full album review once we’ve got the finished product in hand. Stay tuned . . . For now, here’s one of the rough cuts: