The 2016 Arsies: January 20, 2016

January 20, 2016 arse

Listen to today's competitors on Spotify

Finnish folksters Ensiferum give us an energetic start to the day. JaPaBo once explained to me that folk metal is a spiritual descendent of beer hall music, designed to be rousing and chantable by a group of inebriated Teutons. If this is the standardbearer, One Man Army delivers expertly. Once you get past the obligatory symphonic intro, you're in for nearly an hour of well-crafted thrashiness. Rather than push into new flavor profiles, the band seem to be quite happy giving you the best damn lager they can. And by "lager," I mean crisp production, driving rhythm, and fullthroated howling. This is a damn fine album, if not a bit by-the-numbers; even the ambitious-by-the-band's-standards 11-minute song Descendants, Defiance, Domination is really a couple of related songs glued together. The singular exception is the uncharacteristically countryish closer. Still, on the whole the album will have you pining for the fjords, or a stein of beer.
Good Tiger, a supergroup featuring ex-members of The Safety Fire, TesseracT, and The Faceless, offer music of an entirely different taste on their debut album A Head Full Of Moonlight. Prog metalheads, all of them, the band continuously surprise me here with how effortlessly they avoid the usual pitfalls common to the genre. From their opening track Where Are The Birds through to the closer '67 Pontiac Firebird, the band show a slavish devotion to songcraft, hooks, and groove. I wouldn't say that self-indulgence is completely gone, but it's instead somehow harnessed in service of the material. The album is relentlessly unexpected and full of attitude. And songs like I Paint What I See and Latchkey Kids combine Ellliot Coleman's emotive singing with a mean backing band, in a way that trumps anything that he'd done with TesseracT. This is next-level prog fusion disguised as indie hard rock, drawing as much from The Mars Volta as from Glassjaw, and unlike the Ensiferum it keeps you guessing. Good Tiger take the day, and proceed to the next round!
Tomorrow Call Of The Void battle Fuck The Facts. What.

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