Release DetailsLABEL At A Loss Recordings
RELEASED ON 3/31/2009
Sacrifice And Bliss
posted on 3/2009 By:
Unless you’re a dedicated festival-circuit band, being known for your live show is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a badge of honor; the ability to execute a transcendent musical performance without studio-borne safety nets demonstrates poise, skill and charisma. On the other hand, it ensures that those who don’t venture out to catch your live set will never get the ‘full experience,’ as it were. Doom-jazz-punk riffsters Stinking Lizaveta have enjoyed (and suffered) such a reputation for fifteen years. As a denizen of the same region of Philly as this instrumental trio, I can definitely vouch for the accuracy of their repute as a consistently devastating live act. Frankly, if you don’t get your ass up off the La-Z-Boy and let Yanni Papadopoulos melt your brain with his guitar next time they come to your town, it’s your loss.
However, Stinking Lizaveta’s live thunder has never quite fully congealed in album format—the band’s five-album back catalog is strong, but rarely mindblowing, perhaps because they’ve resisted the temptation to go beyond the constraints of their live sound when in the studio. Sacrifice and Bliss sees Stinking Liz taking advantage of multi-tracking without abandoning their gritty aesthetic. The result is a disc more reflective of their potent abilities than anything they’ve released yet.
This isn’t to say that Yanni, brother Alexi Papadopoulos (electric upright bass) and Cheshire Augusta (drums) have gone all soft and squishy with age. Stinking Lizaveta still sounds like Mahavishnu Orchestra’s delinquent stepchild with a Black Flag t-shirt and a giant beard. Despite their bizarre set of influences and clear technical mastery, these boys and girl have always excelled at balancing their esoteric melodies and tempo shifts with hooky riffs and taut songwriting—complex, yes, but never noodly or overwrought. Cheshire and Alexi bounce gleefully between abstruse jazz rhythms and in-your-face slamming grooves with veteran fluidity on tracks like “A Day Without a Murder,” “Trouble Mountain,” and the title track.
Though the rhythm section excels, Yanni’s exotic riffs and wild soloing hold center stage for most of Sacrifice and Bliss. And it’s with Yanni that this disc departs most noticeably from its predecessors; though his playing style has remained consistent, Sacrifice and Bliss features more multi-part layering than ever before. This multi-tracking does wonders for Stinking Lizaveta’s effectiveness, allowing them to replicate the vast sonic edifice they deliver in live. Album standout “We Will See” serves as a perfect example. A single-chord chugging groove serves as a launching point for an absolutely soaring lead hook, which in turn develops into sassy, stacked rock riffing. The song tosses guitar parts back and forth over patient drumming until climaxing into a three-guitar explosion featuring the two collaborating rhythm riffs backing a signature wah-warped shredfest. Like all of Stinking Liz’s best work, “We Will See” is intriguing without pretense and heavy without cliches.
I consider Stinking Lizaveta a fairly well-kept secret in the metal world—they might not be spikes’n’Satan metaaaaaal, but their unclassifiable riff-oriented rock will definitely appeal to metalheads. Though I’d again encourage you to try and catch them live, Sacrifice and Bliss constitutes a good place to start exploring their highly idiosyncratic sound—not least because it’s a concise forty minutes long. I can see this band appealing to fans of everything from Dysrhythmia to Electro Quarterstaff to YOB—check them out if you haven’t yet.
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