Review Round Up #83's Review Round Up feature provides five quick-fire music reviews. This edition includes Pyramids With Nadja's "Pyramids With Nadja," Netherbird's "The Ghost Collector," Propagandhi's "Supporting Caste," Subarachnoid Space's "Eight Bells," and Andrew Dugan's "MMXII."

Pyramids With Nadja

Pyramids With Nadja
“Pyramids With Nadja”
(Hydra Head 2009)

Words like "expansive," "atmospheric," and "subdued" were practically invented to describe albums like this. Sure, vocals or pounding drums will pop in, but it's mostly instrumental journeys to places we weren't meant to visit: the cold reaches of space; the sunless depths of the ocean; the deepest recesses of our own brains. Shoegaze-y, ambient what-have-you can be a tough sell when mishandled, but the tag team of Pyramids and Nadja have been playing this game long enough to know how to make this collaboration interesting and mind-enveloping. This is perfect to fall asleep to, which is an absolute compliment; just beware of dreams of strange places and dark spaces.

Sounds Like: Soundtrack to a satisfyingly pleasant head trip

Key Tracks: "Sound of Ice and Grass"

buy it!
The Ghost Collector

“The Ghost Collector”
(Pulverised Records 2009)

Maybe Netherbird don't do anything new on this album, but they do it better than most bands who angle at grandiose, highly polished "black metal." Here you'll find epic riffs that are rooted in the BM tradition, blazing solos, acoustic passages, and of course the occasional female vocal or orchestrated interlude. It's all done sensibly and surprisingly tastefully, though. Plus, Netherbird do all this without the ego that their filthy English contemporaries have been injecting into their recent output. "The Ghost Collector" is proof that gothic black metal doesn't have to be as bad as you might think.

Sounds Like: What Cradle of Filth would sound like if they were still good

Key Tracks: "Carcass Symphony"

buy it!
Supporting Caste

“Supporting Caste”
(Smallman Records 2009)

Hell to the yes. Propagandhi deal in honest to goodness punk, while holding the pop sensibilities that infect so many "punk" bands these days at bay with pitchforks and torches. Taking the baton from acts like Bad Religion (especially in the vocal department), the Winnipeg quartet create sharp, resonant songs that embody what punk is all about, while also allowing themselves to welcome in elements of thrash ("Night Letters") and hardcore ("This is Your Life"). The lyrics are goofy until you look at them a few times, and just about every song on here is catchier than herpes. Killer stuff.

Sounds Like: Punk. Actual, awesome punk. Deal with it.

Key Tracks: "Night Letters," "Incalculable Effects"

buy it!
Eight Bells

Subarachnoid Space
“Eight Bells”
(Crucial Blast 2009)

Subarachnoid Space make cerebral, nebulous, trippy jam rock; when they're actually sticking to the game plan, that is. There are maddeningly long sections of this album, usually just when the band has built up some momentum, where there is nothing happening. Well, unless you count formless washes of indistinct haze and feedback as something happening. Too much fumbling about with unnecessary ambient sounds spoil what could have been a wonderful, cosmic mind job of an album.

Sounds Like: Half cool/half unfocused spacey noise jams

Key Tracks: "Lilith"

buy it!

Andrew Dugan
(Self-Released 2009)

If a dark acoustic solo project about the 2012 Armageddon in which the narrator (which I'm SURE the singer isn't transposing himself on) is a "prophet" who tries to save humanity or something sounds overindulgent to you, that's because it is. Although there's nothing about this that doesn't scream self-importance, the music is actually pretty good, if somewhat nondescript. The emotive vocals and expressive guitar passages have an ominous feel conducive to a script about the last six hours on Earth. And it's super short; the run time was obviously meant to be 20:12, but ended up at 20:14. Oops. Maybe the rapture can wait another two years.

Sounds Like: Acoustic missives with an atmosphere that matches the apocalyptic story

Key Tracks: "0600 ‘Love'"