Well, I intend trying to post the new CD reviews on-line before the they go into the printed zine, so that hopefully they'll be more uptodate. There's nothing worse than having a new CD early in the existence of a new issue that you want to shout about, and by the time the issue is finished, the CD is 3 months old. So this is to try and remedy it.
March 21 2000
Earthtone9 - Hi-Point EP
So what can I say? You know me, you know by now that I rate this band. In a way this is a strange or tricky release for me given the hard time I give other bands, so what can I say? What am I even on about? Well, you'll need to read on to find out.
I found a tape by the door one day, popped it in (the tape player, not the door, that would've been stupid cos nothing would've happened) and listened. There were no markings, no indication of who, but it was instantly recognisable, and about 4 minutes later, as Tat Twam Asi finished, I had to crawl and get something to scrape my jaw up off the floor. Take the elements that I love best about their music, meld them altogether, improve, add a touch of seasoning and then plonk in their biggest chorus ever and out pops the delicacy that is the Tat Twam Asi. I mean, you can't describe music when it's like this. You just jump up and down, gawping and going waaaaaaaaaawaaawaaaaa as you gesticulate wildly in a way that you know makes sense even if everyone else just looks at you and thinks "prick". Which roughly translates into "stop reading this, listening to me, get yer legs walking down to the shop, buy this and listen to the sheer genius of it for yourself". It strikes you in that, "there's no way you can dislike this and there is no argument" kind of way. Which of course means someone will argue but hey, you're wrong. Face it, this is awesome. Musically it starts off in that gentle manner that they sometimes do, strumming, melody and a twisty drum pattern. It builds to a harsher middle section and then there's a drum roll that on first listen is just too long, but when you realise the chorus it's leading into makes you think "yeah, damn right you should build this one up a bit". It's hard to explain, it's one of those moments that is just so there, so great. The chorus is melodic but with an overdubbed shout going on in the background as well, the two vocal styles blending perfectly. You know that time when you want to sing two things at once, because both are great - it's one of those moments. As the melody is sung, "as we move to consciousness as we move through consciousness, as we move to consciousness, driven by need for transecendence", there's the barking of what sounds like "consciousness" in the background. Magic stuff. Listen to it, you'll understand what I mean I'm sure. The music is rolling at this stage, just a rolling driving riff gathering momentum - not like but similar in a way to there's that rolling riff in the chorus of NIN's We're In This Together Now - it's just so correct so right. And then it breaks down again and the song mirrors itself -strum, aggression, build the anticipation - blam chorus. It's one of their most meldoic moments, definitely a step onwards, yet one of their heaviest. A total contradiction that works so well. And there's another of those great anti-solos in there. If this is a sign of the direction for the new album, then it's going to blow all the competition out of the water. Best song of the year this far easily. Don't believe me, get over to the website, cos you can download the track there and listen to it.
In comparison Alpha Hi pales a little, but not much, not in the longer run. It's kind of more of a slow burner, much like the E9 material of old. Heavily driven by the rhythm section provide a strong, driving pounding basis upon which they're also playing with the old wah wah pedal a bit, but in a more adventurous manner than say Kirk Hammet has really done in the past. Here it's not to stand out and say "hey, it's the wah moment", it's done to blend, to help create the music itself. There's more of that kind of tribal feel a bit more, the whole vocal feels more like it's a choral chant almost than any kind of lyric, yet it works so well, building such an atmospheric meldoic chorus. It's sounding more spiritual, perhaps bearing out some of the feeling that the lyrcis to Tat Twam Asi seem to indicate - tribal, ethnic, spiritual? It sounds familiar, that nagging thing that when something is good it always sounds familiar. The melody, the feel. I'm pretty sure it's a Tool moment I'm thinking, but it's becoming an increasingly common reference that there's a resistance to use it again. But in the same way that they're special, this evokes the same feeling. And yet in amongst it all there's even time for some Johnny Morrow stylised yaaaaaayying from Karl. The two new songs indicate perhaps more melody in their approach, and I'm sure some hard nut somewhere will say therefore that they're "selling out". Nothing of the sort, they're just putting together beautiful music that has more than one style to it, more than one basic structure. And if that's ever defined as selling out, then I hope every bad in existence sells out, cos it would make music a damn site more pleasurable than it is even now.
Then we get on to the "strange" half of the EP.
I'm getting pissed off with covers, everyone does a cover these days. Earthtone9 have done a cover, which means I should be pissed off. Am I? Well, the difference here is this. For a start, I've never listened to the band they've covered, Shihad, so effectively it's a new song to me. It's not a "oh how funny we are, tickle me riblets and grab me giblets" kind of thing, y'know, what "wacky" song can we do, and finally, it's not the lead off track. It's not the one that the band or label are pinning their hopes on cracking the charts with because they've got so little confidence in either their own music or the record buying public. Which makes this more acceptable. Like in those good old days of "previously unreleased" tracks on a 12" single. So anyway, what about the song. A good cover? Well like I said, never listened to the original so couldn't say, but it sounds incredibly familiar, a slower doomier kind of riff to the normal E9 thing, but they manage to turn it into their own song simply by their own sound. If I didn't know it was a cover, then it would be a decent E9 song in it's own right - not their best mind you, ooh no, but a decent song.
Then there's the next puzzler. A reworking / rerecording of Vitriolic HSF from the debut. Not sure why? I mean, you can hear some differences, but for me not being a musician its primarily in the production - I guess you'll get a different sound each time you go in the studio, especially 3 years or so apart and with a number of different musicians playing on it, but apart from that I don't really understand the reason it was done or its inclusion on here. But for musicians, there may be some blindingly obvious differences and reasons for doing it. But I'm just ignorant, and selfish. Obviously I'd have liked to have heard something new, because well it's always good to hear something new isn't it. So yeah, it's there, it sounds more powerful, Karl has definitely improved the aggressive vocals, there's more control in there, but overall I don't really see why it's been done. But that's me, I'm selfish, I want more new stuff, new new new, more more more, me me me all the time. And it's because those 2 new songs are so amazing. Did I say that already? Well they are.
I keep wondering why it is this band seems to me to be set apart from so many others. Maybe it's that for just four tracks they get me writing this much whereas others just inspire a ~yeah, it's ok~ or a "this is crap". Some music just excites but you can't explain. Not properly. Not fully. Not rationally. And listening to this I stil can't really explain why, it's just there. There's more dimensions, more feel, more than one tempo, more than one boring drum fill. There's melody and aggression combined, and at the end of the day, there's good songwriting. Some people may have found it hard to identify the songs previously or live, due to the harder stuff being shoved in their faces (ooer), but the songs are there, you have to just immerse yourself. Here though, those songs are more immediate than they've ever been before from the band. I mean, I still can't describe music, but look, it's a 4 track EP, and it's getting this much out of me, this much reaction. Why? Because it's just sooooooooo good - it's truly that simple.
So it's a little weird. The new stuff is amazing, and for that matter alone this is an essential purchase, and the mouth should be salivating at the propsect of album #3 - though make sure you clean your teeth, cos it would get a bit smelly and disgusting otherwise. Still not sure about a cover though and re-working an old track. But effectively it's 3 out of 4 new songs, and what songs! Oh what songs! Roll on the tour and album #3. They're on the march again. So exactly how many times can I play this one tape in a day! Let's try in the morning when I get up, then take it to the car, play on the way to work, on the way home, remove from car and play in flat during evening. This, is good.