This Week’s Best Albums: November 29, 2011

This Week's Best Albums: November 29, 2011

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.

Vildhjarta: MåsstadenVildhjarta: Måsstaden (Century Media)

Vildhjarta: “Benblåst”

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Six years ago, Vildhjarta began as a three-piece musical project in Hudiksvall, Sweden. The young band, then comprised of Daniel Bergström, Johan Nyberg, and Jimmie Åkerström, communicated musical and lyrical ideas via E-mail due to locational distances. Yet despite limited direct access to one another, the trio more than doubled its size and consequently doubled its roster of compositional ideas. From there, Vildhjarta naturally evolved from a mere project to a band with the “djent” progressive-metal style coined by Meshuggah. This physical growth of Vildhjarta has been possibly the most significant contributor to its musical growth, resulting in the band’s concept album and debut full-length, Måsstaden.

Though the mathy, chugging, down-tuned riffage is the band’s main calling card, Måsstaden establishes a diversity thanks to a series of melodic yet eerie interludes and alternating vocalists.  Those vocal exchanges — between Vilhelm Bladin’s deep growls and Daniel Ädel’s mid-range screams — respond to tempo and instrumental changes, maintaining a consistency during each song’s verses and chorus. Metalcore breakdowns are recurrent throughout Måsstaden, but tracks such as “Traces” and “Benblåst” offer distinguishing characteristics, respectively, in the form of harmonized singing and a creeping introductory rhythm.

According to the band, the album’s concept “tells the tale of a hidden and isolated town narrated in a classic fable manner.” Although Måsstaden doesn’t evoke feelings of a jolly Disney fairytale, Vildhjarta cites The Jungle Book’s melodies as well as Final Fantasy IV’s narrative as inspirations. Outside of a few subtle moments — such as the backing polyrhythms on “All These Feelings” and “The Lone Deranger” — those inspirations are about as inaudible as they come. Nonetheless, Vildhjarta has made its mark with a crushing and conceptual debut.

– Text by Lauren Zens.

Gorillaz: The Singles Collection 2001-2011Gorillaz: The Singles Collection 2001-2011 (Virgin / EMI)

You’ve got to hand it Brit-pop stalwart Damon Albarn and Tank Girl illustrator Jamie Hewlett for creating an animated band that’s stood up to criticism in both the animation and music spheres for a decade. What could’ve burst and then fizzled has grown into a worldwide multimedia project whose collaborators include hip-hop mainstays such as Del the Funky Homosapien, MF Doom, Mos Def, and De La Soul; legends like Lou Reed and Bobby Womack; and lesser-known all-stars that include  Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Martina Topley-Bird, and an assortment of orchestras and choirs.

This year marks its tenth anniversary, and to celebrate, the virtual band is releasing The Singles Collection: 2001–2011, a CD/DVD package that includes 15 tracks and 14 visual selections, either official music videos or live recordings. Among the latter is the standout “Kids with Guns” from Demon Days: Live at the Manchester Opera House.

What’s cool about hearing the compressed discography is the pop of each album’s highly stylized flavor, together a panorama of ideas, influences, and production values. What’s not as cool is that there’s nothing from The Fall, last year’s minimal but masterful album recorded on an iPad in hotel rooms during 30 days of a US tour. Instead, “Doncamatic,” the banal single featuring young soul sensation Daley, makes the cut.

It’s the same story on the DVD, which includes mostly major works rather than the cool animatics and other pulp that Gorillaz released in the lead up to The Singles. Despite these few missed opportunities, it’s hardly a disappointing retrospective. If nothing else, it’s worth going back to “Clint Eastwood” and pondering the decade that’s taken place since the song moseyed infectiously onto the scene.

– Text by Timothy S. Aames.

Honorable Mention

Dim Mak: The Emergence of Reptilian Altars (Willowtip)

Temple of Baal / Ritualization: The Vision of Fading Mankind (Agonia)