tisdag 21 juni 2011

Thalamus' Mr Avenson reviewed

What first pops to mind when listening to Thalamus' Mr Avenson is change. Change of time, structure and beat. In short, change of expectations. It keeps your ear twitched, your mind set on awareness. This album you have to really listen to. It's not something you can play on the background while doing your morning sit-ups.

I had the good luck of seeing these guys down in Mönchengladbach almost three years ago, and they were smoking hot at that time. Especially the drummer, Roland Kozubek, performed very well. He's versatile, hard-hitting and into the music on-stage. When it comes to Metal bands, a lot of drummers look like robots, not feeling the music, not letting loose, and the biggest failure is that they hit like pussies. Even on a small stage technicians have to mike their whole kits because they can't play hard enough for that small room. It's pathetic and it destroys the sound. Not Mr Kozubek, no sir. He's fucking hammering on that poor kit on this album.

Imagine you're aboard a commercial vessel going west towards N.Y. and you have to share bunks with Dead Soul Tribe, Mastodon and Tool. Occasionally some passengers stroll by and mistake your bunk as their own, like a well-dressed version of Nirvana and some easterners, resembling Indukti. Even a discreet Metalcore fan shows up and presents himself before he walks away. Other than that, it's just you and your room-mates, which doesn't make much noise but let you do all the talking.

This pretty much surmises my experience of the album: It has a lot of obvious influences, as with truckloads of other bands. Fortunately for Thalamus, they manage an unique way, between the trodden paths of the above mentioned artists. It's rock, progressive in its texture and structure. Sure, they're dabbling with Metal - and punk-influences, but ultimately it's rock they master.

The acoustical production has brought out the dynamics of the drums pretty good. You can clearly hear the nuances and the small chops going on there. Occasionally you can hear that it's fairly processed through compressor and equalizer. Minor tweaks, so to speak, but that doesn't alter the overall experience of this most vital part of a progressive rock ensemble.
The guitars have a somewhat dry, middle frequency based rock sound, which works fine, both into the Metal parts and the softer passages in the songs.
It's like Justin Chamberlain rears its head when I think of the bass sound, not that that's bad thing. And what encapsulates the performance is the vocals. Dave Müller's voice moves from being melodic, smooth and fragile to be harsh and raw, which is what I like about this album, since the whole band sounds way more aggressive than I remember them to be on stage. To be honest, I'm always more keen on brutal music, be it fast, middle, or slow.

This is a progressive music album, hence I am not surprised at the changes of time, beats and arrangement that's typical for progression. My mind keeps measuring the odd beats, doing everything the trained ear is supposed to hear, a 6/4 equals an 8/4 with triplets as the original 8th notes, or how a 13/8 straightens out to a regular 4/4. But what made me listen to it again and again is the groove they manage to create. It's not a stiff showdown with music school kids trying to play their asses off, or twirl around in complicated beats written on a computer. This has soul.
Sometimes they take a bite at the darker levels of music, like the song Oleander, and I come to think off Alice In Chains. But mostly they tend to rely on force, groove and melodic patterns belonging to the West rather than the East, if you catch my drift.

But let's get to the down-side of things: There's many things I hate in this world, Metalcore being one of them. So, one of the things that keeps bugging me on Mr Avenson is some of the Metalcore influenced choruses. Not only because they smell Metalcore, but because they don't have the same vibe as with the rest of the material. They divert too much from the initial feeling of the song. Thalamus never do this kind of musical abortion as blatantly as Slayer did on Reign In Blood or Megadeth on Peace Sells..., they're beyond that pubertal mess-up on arrangements. But the core of the song is sometimes lost, misplaced, and that's what I'm missing. Given that these misplacements is only a small fraction of whole songs, it's a forgiveable mistake though.

Another thing I hate, or should I say strongly dislike, is smooth music. Be it soft, calm or whatnot crappy Indie bands try to play. Now, at first glance, I could've been annoyed by Thalamus' smooth parts of the songs, but they're so well directed and applied in the context that it doesn't bother me. They have a essential slot to fill in the arrangement, and they make the songs complete. Without them there's something missing.

That's basically it, these reflections that comes to mind after a couple of times listening to Mr Avenson.

måndag 13 juni 2011

Hypochondriasis and self diagnosis

As my Summers' spare time start to shrink down to a week before work comes back with a light tap on my shoulder come next Monday morning, I've started to reflect upon issues that some people around me, and non-relatives have. It is with a mixed feeling of both amusement and sadness I think upon the problems of hypochondria and the need to diagnose one's own health.

I have people close to me that clearly have health anxieties, to various degrees. Usually they're just over-zealous when it comes to staying healthy, plus some of them aren't in their twenties anymore and can take a keg of beer and expect to feel like a king the day after, if you catch my drift. But besides the somewhat normal jitters, heebie jeebies or whatever people call it nowadays - with regular complaints of them having a hoarse voice yet again or showing signs of a cold or something as mundane - they basically live their lives without having to structure everything around health checks or becoming neurotic fruitcakes.

What can be more problematic is the loneliness of your own mind. In your own fantasy you can be a king, an emperor of the world, a villain or just a schmuck with an incredible luck of jumping danger at every turn. This is the egoistic, narcissistic part of yourself that usually rears its ugly head only in the shadows, stay away from the light of society. And if you want to, you can keep it company long enough to develop some really fucked up version of reality, including your own. Cabin fever can do this to you, if you stay in-doors long enough, devoid of other people.

On the other hand, loneliness, in different forms, might work the other way around. It is easy to assume that, given that you have an empathic individual that desperately searches for human companionship, be it sexual, relational or strictly platonic, this person can as easily develop some strange sensation of make-believe connection to other people, or moreover ones own mental health. That would be a deceiving way of dealing with ones own feelings. Robinson Crusoe comes to mind, when you think about it, for who can truly say that fictional literature can't tap the fabrics of truth and wisdom? Also, it is one thing to know the truth, and it's another thing to know what to do with it.

When it comes to psychological issues, the human brain is a complex piece of machinery. You can't simply relocate a wire and hope that'll fix it. The pathology of mental illness can be messed up in more than one way, for example trying to diagnose yourself, without the input of a professional. A soul sickness, as the Good Book calls it, is an imbalance of the four fluids, or so they thought, back in the day. Nowadays it's commonly referred to the social and medical factors of childhood development, genetical inheritance and the general environment of society the subject lives in. A self-diagnose can create many misconceptions, build a wall of disinformation and lead the troubled mind into narrow paths of dubious treatment, or worse, into harms way. One example I noticed a couple of months ago, was this
confused person. It was well over six months since I read her blog, but these last days I remembered her when I started to think about hypochondria and peoples need to self-diagnose. I feel sorry for her frustration and urge to certify the symptoms of her problems, mainly because she might not even have a clue what the real cause of her problems are, only that she's not feeling well and don't know what to do about it. In the Swedish rehabilitation system, there's an informal term for people with multiple diagnosis as "double-diagnosis", meaning someone with both drug - and mental problems. An easy example is a drug addict with a depression. Question here is, what came first, the depression or the drugs? Laymen can debate this amongst themselves for countless hours and still don't get any smarter, except that one got a gut feeling about how things are supposed to be done, which doesn't help anyone practically. Therapy, be it cognitive or conversational, can at least narrow down all the bullshit that can cluster up in a monkey-ridden head. To minimize the damage, so to speak, and hopefully change the path of mental progression.