Regina Spektor and Suffocation's new reviews this week
4/5 Far Let’s see if we can’t triangulate Ms Spektor within the larger context of ‘female singer-songwriters what play piano’, shall we? She’s more direct and poppy than Tori Amos, less theatrical and dark than Amanda Palmer and nowhere near as bland as Missy Higgins. In fact, Spektor’s intimate voice and spry playing will make Far a massive success if there’s any justice in the world.
Her lyrics range from cute ’n’ clever (‘The Calculation’s ‘So we made our own computer out of macaroni pieces’) to adorably goofy (‘And the seas are just a wetter version of the skies’ on ‘Folding Chair’). The economical lyrics and extraordinary chorus of ‘Laughing With’ suggests that there’s a magnificent musical somewhere deep inside Spektor. And ‘Two Birds’ drives along like early Divine Comedy. The production never threatens to overpower the music, with voice and piano kept upfront at all times. In short, if you like your music lilting and lyrical, this could be your album of the year. Andrew P Street Available in stores.
4/5 Blood Oath If an alien landed in your backyard and happened to ask what death metal was, you could do far worse than to hand it a copy of Blood Oath. While it’s probably a stretch to rank the record among the two-decade-old genre’s finest statements, few other releases have so skilfully blended the breakneck bludgeon of old-school death metal with the relentless technicality favoured by contemporary luminaries.
Among underground aficionados, Suffocation’s excellence is no secret. Rising to prominence during death metal’s early-’90s golden age, the Long Island outfit issued several future classics, including 1991’s Effigy Of The Forgotten. But the band’s strongest work has come since the core of its original line-up regrouped in 2004, after more than a decade of shuffling membership.
Like its self-titled 2006 predecessor, Blood Oath boasts pristine yet hugely weighty production, a vast improvement over Suffocation’s first few efforts. The album’s key asset, though, is its expertly calibrated balance of intricacy and brutality. In the first three minutes of ‘Cataclysmic Purification’, the band hurtles through a bewildering array of rhythmic feels, all accented by Frank Mullen’s signature raw-throated growls. But, just when information overload threatens, the musicians settle into a grinding, half-time riff that’s as catchy as it is sinister. Overall, Blood Oath teaches an ironic lesson: it’s tasteful restraint that separates death metal’s titans from its workmanlike masses. Hank Shteamer Available at www.7digital.com or to order in stores.