This Week’s Best Albums: January 29, 2013

This Week's Best Albums: January 29, 2013

Each week, editor-in-chief Chris Force and music editor Scott Morrow choose ALARM’s favorite new releases for This Week’s Best Albums, an eclectic set of reviews presenting exceptional music.

Tomahawk: Oddfellows (Ipecac)


Putting the “rock” back in “rock super-group,” Tomahawk makes a mighty return with Oddfellows, a “re-launch” of a band whose last album (Anonymous in 2007) was an aggressive interpretation and expansion of Native American motifs.

The group’s core — singer/sampler Mike Patton (Faith No More), guitarist Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), and drummer John Stanier (Battles) — is now joined by bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle), resulting in tunes with even more muscle and flexibility. Pugilistic riffs are front and center once more, but Patton expands the band’s range with “heavy pop” vocals — including some downright cooing — for soaring choruses.

There are a few other twists and turns, including a jazzy organ here and a deep piano melody there, but the band is still founded on those vocals over winding melodies, thick bass tones, and pounding, syncopated beats. Don’t believe us; hear it for yourself. Oddfellows already is one of the best albums of 2013.

- Scott Morrow

Hatebreed: The Divinity of Purpose (Razor & Tie)

"Put It to the Torch"

With an unflinching dedication to 1990s East Coast hardcore, Hatebreed has incited circle pits across the land since its high-water-mark full-length debut, Satisfaction is the Death of Desire, in 1997. Since then, the Connecticut outfit has undergone a string of lineup changes and minor differences in style, but the beauty (and theoretical downfall) of the band is that it always comes back to what it does best: tough-guy hardcore with dropped-tuning chug riffs, breakdowns, and gang vocals galore.

The Divinity of Purpose, Hatebreed's first album since 2009, is no different. Every track is an invitation to chant along and bang your head — and whether or not your tongue is planted in cheek for lines like "time to murder it," Hatebreed still knows how to do what it does. If you've stuck by the band to this point, Divinity won't disappoint.

- Scott Morrow

Cult of Luna: Vertikal (Density)

"I: The Weapon"

Despite its modest size, the Swedish university town of Umeå has been a musical hotbed whose offspring includes Meshuggah, Refused, Naglfar, and Mats Gustafsson of The Thing. Cult of Luna, active since 1998, is yet another of the town's notables, creating epic, sludgy post-metal in the vein of Neurosis and Isis.

Vertikal is the band's "proper" followup to 2008 album Eternal Kingdom, and it's just about all one could want from the "Neur-Isis" spectrum. Its jagged, chugging riffs, walls of sound, and light/dark fluctuations are apt soundscapes for a concept album inspired by the pre-Nazi Weimar Republic — with "themes of machinery, repetition, and clear, linear structures honed to the visual imagery of Fritz Lang’s classic expressionist science‐fiction film Metropolis."

The music sequencing plays as key a role as the songs themselves, with atmospheric interludes and track order providing necessary breathing room. And when Vertikal arrives at its most epic track, the 20-minute "Vicarious Redemption," it passes with surprising quickness thanks to the band's comprehension of dynamics and buildups. In contrast, it's then followed by the electronic/industrial gurgles of "The Sweep," spending just three minutes before delving into a pair of "short-form" epics (seven and nine minutes, respectively). This is post-metal at its peak.

- Scott Morrow

Buke & Gase: General Dome (Brassland)


Combine baritone ukulele (“buke”), guitar-bass (“gase”), a masterful falsetto, percussive stomping, and all manner of effects…and you might get something unrecognizable. Thankfully, as Buke & Gase, Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez mesh those elements to craft beautiful yet powerful pop-rock ditties.

After a debut LP and subsequent EP, the duo goes straight for the (general) dome with its latest, ratcheting up the home-brewed distortion for even greater contrast with Dyer’s sugary-sweet voice. The instruments, already distinct of timbre and unrecognizable, now sound like alien machinery. It’s fuzz for all ages.

- Scott Morrow

Honorable Mentions:

Lost Animal: Ex Tropical (Hardly Art)

Mice Parade: Candela (FatCat)

Spectral Park: s/t (Mexican Summer)