Album Reviews: Dethklok, Mum, Neon Indian, Trapped Under Ice, Polvo

by | Oct 6, 2009 | MUSIC

Dethalbum II
Williams Street

For the first few songs of this album, I was wondering why I had signed on to writing this review. Not that the music is bad, but it’s just not my style of metal, and I didn’t dig the first album. That being said, my ears perked up during “Laser Cannon Deth Sentence.” The music shifted from being pure death metal, and more epic tones slithered onto the plate. There’s still the same intensity on the drums by Gene Hoglan, and Brendon Small still carries your ears away with an array of guitar shreds that leave you feeling as if you’ve just been blasted out of a cannon, but there’s also another layer to this song that pulls it out of the unoriginal world of death metal, and into the world of creative genius. That extra, dare I say, “epic” layer gives it a better atmospheric quality that separates it from the blunt nature of standard death metal (a little keyboard action can go a long way).

Brendon kept this level of depth going with “Black Fire Upon Us,” and his intro for the song is truly a treat (as is the outro for “The Cyborg Slayers”). “Deth Support” returned to the typical qualities of death metal, but “I Tamper with the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin” did not disappoint, combining elements of black, death, and power metal, with a solo that would make some of Dethklok’s Nordic colleagues smile.

The crown jewel of the album, however, is “Murmaider II: The Water God.” Every element is mastered in this song. The lyrics are audible (which can be difficult with this genre), the atmosphere of a watery abyss is captured in the first few seconds, the drums and guitars build from a pounding pace, reminiscent of marching feet, to a crescendo of guitar prowess. There’s elements of epic, power, doom, and death metal wrapped into one auditory treat, no one element steals the show (though Brendon does sprinkle in mini guitar solos), and the entire piece works as one haunting and entertaining piece. Now if only Metalocalypse had that much depth. Still, this album is worth your time and money, even if you aren’t a fan of the show.
– Jon Headlee

Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know

Mum has been together in various forms since 1997 releasing only four albums and a couple of EPs in that time. They have been busy with various music projects and lengthy tours all over the world. This release is unique in that it seems to only have been released by or on a website called which says they are a social music sharing site. The music listener buys directly from the artist whom set their own price and gets 100% of the profits.

Mum’s 5th album Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know is decidedly more upbeat and organic then earlier releases with which I’m familiar. Stripping their sound down from relying mostly on heavy use of electronic beats and sounds, Mum replace them with live instrumentation and upbeat songs. You don’t feel the underlying melancholia as much on this release as older albums, which is nice. The group seems happier somehow, playful, lively even in that childlike quality that they have always had. Perhaps they are in love or relaxing more as they get older. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to see them come out with those elements that have always endeared me to them while being innovative with their sound.

– Christian Hendrickson

Neon Indian
Psychic Chasms

Neon Indian are at the forefront of another shockingly ephemeral genre that has appeared (and very likely peaked) over the past couple of months. The fact that the newly minted genre of “Chillwave” (or “Glo-fi”, if you’re into obnoxious hyphens) seems to be cresting even before Psychic Chasms sees a proper release says quite a bit about how tight the feedback loop is becoming.

Psychic Chasms lives and dies by its gauzy synths, samples, and heavily affected vocals. It has the sound and feel of a cassette you would pull from the garage of someone with a deep love for Gary Numan and OMD. There’s a definite house party/beach trip vibe happening here that tugs at a universal nostalgia, but the problem with such hallucinatory melodies is that they can have a difficult time standing out.

“Should Have Taken Acid With You” proves to be the big exception. It’s a simple pop song that sounds tossed-off in the way that poignant bits of artistic epiphany often do. The songs “Deadbeat Summer” and “Mind, Drips” come close, but both almost feel like responses to their initial inspiration (“Should Have…” was the first song ever made under the Neon Indian moniker). Even so, the EP has an addictive, although passive flow that suits the seasonal change, even if they don’t survive it.

– Landis Wine

Trapped Under Ice

Secrets of the World
Reaper Records

Following the success of their Stay Cold EP, Trapped Under ice drags us back into the cold with their first full length, Secrets of the World. The LP was released by Reaper Records, whose roster includes local hardcore band, Naysayer.

Secrets of the World
is an all around great release for this band. By sticking close to its New York style and not veering off into experimentation, songs like “Gemini”, “Believe”, or “TUI” really hit home and are a perfect example of Trapped Under Ice’s self-loathing mentality. With hammering drums, beaten guitars, what feels like tortured vocals, Secrets of the World shows us what TUI that they are the best at what they do, and are here to stay.

If you are even a remote fan of the hardcore genre I would highly recommend this record. It is a full 12 songs of sheer unmerciful music that gets your blood going with every song. Start it of, TUI.

– Knox Colby

In Prism

I’ve begun to relax a bit about reunion albums. Mission of Burma and Dinosaur Jr. didn’t fuck it up, but I never had enough of a connection to them to get personally invested (read: violently skeptical) in how well their new work wove itself into their back catalog. Polvo are an entirely different story. Not only are they one of my all-time favorites, but they previously capped their career with the godawful Shapes which found the band dabbling in sitar, bad 60’s psych, and fragmenting in a dozen other embarrassing ways.

In Prism rectifies this by, and this was hard for even me to admit, the best full-length of their career. They’ve never made a record this composed, consistent, and complex. Polvo used to be a band that sounded ramshackle even at the peak of their powers. Though their songwriting abilities helped them transcend their limitations, they were a hard sell to a lot of people. Half-speed guitar loop interlude? Eh, no thanks. The new mission statement is made clear in album opener “Right the Relation”, which has the tightest instrumental work of their career, noticeably confident singing, and yet still maintains all the hallmarks that made Polvo such a beautifully angular band. Later on in “Lucia”, the band brings in strings, percussion, and vocal harmonies, essentially resolving all of the loose ends on their two previous albums. This is easily one of the best albums of the year.

– Landis Wine

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.

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