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Ivo talks about the latest Mark Lanegan album' Gargoyle' VS. Ulver - The Assassination of Julius Caesar



There have been two releases that I wanted to cover this week: one being “Gargoyle”, the new Mark Lanegan record, and Ulver’s latest release “The Assassination of Julius Caesar”. These two have very little in common, I agree but still there is one thing that I’ve noticed. Before we get to that, let’s
take a closer look at the albums. 

©  Ingird Aas 2014
“The Assassination of Julius Caesar” was presented about a month ago on the Roadburn festival and while still some trve cvltists left because Ulver STILL haven’t returned to their original black metal sound, the gig can easily be regarded as one of the highlights of the festival. Superbe lightshow, impeccable performance from the band and although Depeche Mode and Massive Attack were more obvious inspirations than Bathory and Venom, the audience seemed to appreciate the new stuff. Seen that I hadn’t heard the record before, I decided to give it a spin.
 
Now, since I obviously really liked what I heard at Roadburn, I was a tad biased and obviously my feelings towards the record are perhaps a bit more positive than if I had decided at the time to skip Ulver and sleep off my fever in my tent.
That being said, this record is a “grower” as in it doesn’t immediately blow you away but it gets under your skin. Instrumentationwise, there is a lot of interesting things going on but nothing is really mixed in your face and jumps out which is an old fashioned thing. I keep discovering new things on this record every time I listen to it.
 
There is a common theme to the lyrics involving icons, their rise and fall. Singer Kristoffer Rygg mentions the Colossus, princess Diana, Roman emperor Nero and the assassination attempt on pope John-Paul II. I have to admit that it is refreshing to have actual lyrics that mean something instead of a couple of great sounding one-liners.
 
So, top notch record although their vintage approach might alienate young listeners.

Now to “Gargoyle”, the latest addition to the already immensely long discography of former Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, Gutter Twins singer Mark Lanegan. I’ve stopped couStone Age, Lanegan has been trying to take a rock line-up and enhance it with drum computers, keyboards and synths. Despite his sincere intentions, earlier artistic accomplishments and the fact that the “indie” press loves him, the formula has gone stale and doesn’t add anything new to hos body of work.nting somewhere after the release of the “Here Comes that Weird Chill” EP in 2003. On that note, I used to be a big fan of Lanegan and so, again, I am biased. He appears on a substantial part of my record collection and I’ve seen him live a couple of times. That being said, I really, REALLY can’t get into this record. It annoys me and often I feel like I’ve heard all this before. Ever since his time with the Queens of the

 It doesn’t help either that Lanegan is a, and I’m forfeiting my entire career as a reviewer by making this statement, one trick pony. Sure, he has that recognisable, gritty grave digger voice but as a singer he has a limited range and it’s not as if he is extremely versatile. As much as I adored his semi-crooning style, it does get boring, especially if the lyrics aren’t that good. It seems to me that he is just stringing dark sounding words together, like “crows”, “dark”, “goodbye, lover”.
Maybe it’s time for Dark Mark to push aside his notorious need for control and contact a good producer who can help him create new sounds, write songs and find inspiration. In any case he is in need of somebody who can help him update his formula because in 2017 it sounds Outdated.

But how does that compare to “The Assassination of Julius Caesar”? I mean, I give Lanegan shit for sounding outdated but when looked at the albums objectively, the sound of “The Assassination of Julius Caesar” is also outdated. Even more since that the direct inspiration for that album were synthpop bands from the 80’s and yet I like that one much better than “Gargoyle”. So, what is it? Am I full of shit? Is it because I’m discovering more music? My immer evolving taste?  Or is it Zeitgeist?
Do I like “Gargoyle” less because Lanegan is playing catch-up with the trends and losing at it while Ulver decisively went for a 80’s sound and expand upon that?

 That one could make sense and I can think of a few examples in other media where something similar happens. I could describe “now” but by the time you read this, “now” has already changed. Wasn’t there a Greek saying for that? Is it a fashion thing? The 80’s are hot for some reason and a lot of old farts that I know are sharing old pictures, snippets of crappy old cartoons and movies.
 
A few entrepreneurs and artists seem to have turned this nostalgia into a business model and making money out of it. This option however seems unlikely. “The Assassination of Julius Caesar” is too dark, too “difficult”, too artsy to be interesting from a commercial point of view. Perhaps it’s something more basal. Maybe the material on “The Assassination of Julius Caesar” is stronger than on “Gargoyle” but by making that statement, I’m becoming more subjective and personal…. Or has it got something to do with Ulver being the freshest memory? Like stated earlier, I haven’t followed Lanegan in some time and looked up his record out of curiosity. From the Ulver show I have great and recent memories even if I was coughing up my lungs at the time. Anyway, it should be clear that there is more to liking music than just the music. Zeitgeist, personal circumstances, external factors, visual stimulations…  That is  what I wanted to share. Feel free to discuss about it...


-Ivo Goeyens - Mail : basswachter@gmail.com
 
 

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