Bostjan Zupancic: Micrometal
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Bostjan Zupancic: Micrometal

St Johnsbury, VT | Established. Jan 01, 2015

St Johnsbury, VT
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Metal Avant-garde

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"Bostjan Zupancic - Micrometal: Vol. II"

If you’ve ever seen Mystery Science Theatre 3000, then you’ll understand why I absolutely love this album. I’m sure you’ve heard bad albums before – they’re two-a-penny – but albums that are so bad they’re good? Now that’s rare. I simply can’t think of one off the top of my head. Enter Bostjan Zupancic. Heard of it? Of course not. It’s a one-man project starring Russ Hayes, playing what he describes as Micrometal – meaning he’s using the metal genre as a launch pad for exploring microtonal music. Microtonal music has always intrigued me, so the thought of hearing such unconventional tunings in my most beloved genre was not an opportunity I could miss. However, intrigue soon turned to sheer amusement upon first listen. After Micrometal initially disappoints, it is quickly redeemed by unintentional comedy value.

This was a doomed premise from the start, as I believe the very concept of microtonal metal is flawed. Metal is genre born from conventional means: familiar song structures, 12-tone diatonic scales etc. Microtonal music would require a genre with a more flexible framework to be effective: ambient or drone perhaps. The sections that actually involve microtones (and there really aren’t as many as one would hope) simply come across as out-of-tune. The first example appears two minutes into opener “By Example”, and it’s so blaring and unsympathetic that it provokes involuntary laughter. As you may have noticed, that song-title is a little ironic – and it’s just one of a few! There’s also “Give In”, and the priceless “The Finite Song” – which is, naturally, the longest song on the album.
Alongside the jarring guitars, there is a drum machine – which, if you care to hear the opening moments of “From Death To Life”, is not of superb quality. But sitting on top of this cacophonous clamour are Russ’s vocals – the heart of the hilarity. He ranges from a low, tuneless warble that wouldn’t sound out of place in a really bad high school band – such as the constant ‘beautiful memories’ refrain of “The Finite Song” – to a scratchy pseudo-scream reminiscent of Brian Johnson with his balls in a vice. All you need do is check out the 1:20 mark in “Buried” – that’s what we’re dealing with. Oddly, he also plays around with time signatures too – but they never feel like they’re suiting the flow of a song, rather just being complex for the sake of it. So to add to it sounding out of tune, it also sounds out of time!

There are no ‘highlights’ to speak of – only sections that occasionally peak interest for their musical endeavour, and moments of pure farce. “Buried” actually begins with a half-decent breakdown-esque period, and the closer “Close The Door” is pleasingly insane. But when contrasted with a mess like “Demon Of Entropy”, the result is hysterical. I mean, just look at the cover art. It looks like a bootleg Kreator album done by an eight-year-old on Microsoft Paint. Even that sent me into a fit of giggles. But in all seriousness, even though I was let down at first, I quickly found myself coming back to this again and again and still laughing out loud. Cruel? Maybe. But all comedy is cruelty. I absolutely love this album, for all the wrong reasons. - The Metal Observer


"Album Review: Bostjan Zupancic, 'MicroMetal Volume II'"

1998 is a year I chiefly remember for scoring a job reviewing videogames, then promptly getting such a glorious case of mono that my whole fall semester was wiped out. The two events crossed over with tragic results when I was assigned to review a Japanese role-playing game called Grandia. I'd never attempted to play any game like it in my life. I spent most of the time I was supposed to be playing just staring at the screen and muttering, "What the fuck is happening?" I don't know if it was the mono or the game, but my confusion bordered on the hallucinogenic.

Which brings me to Bostjan Zupancic's MicroMetal Volume II. I'll get to the finer details of why this is such an odd-sounding record in a second. But it's fair to say that MMVII is even weirder than playing obscure Japanese RPGs while heavily medicated.

Those familiar with Zupancic — aka St. Johnsbury's Russ Hayes (not to be confused with the judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France) — and his 2016 album MicroMetal Volume I, will find the guitarist up to his usual experiments in tonality. Hayes is a proponent of the 19-EDO scale, a form of alternate tuning that uses microtones. The scale is more common in Eastern music, though Western composers have been using it since Guillaume Costeley's Seigneur Dieu ta pitié in 1558. It hasn't found a foothold in modern popular music because the quartertones can sound simply out of tune to the uninitiated.

Hayes is in no hurry to cater to that crowd. He builds riffs like spider webs on the punishing "Demon of Entropy" — a song that comes across as Mike Patton fronting the fictitious cartoon band Dethklok. But he has vision. Every note, however dementedly off it sounds, is placed ever so carefully. At times MMVII is transcendent. And then there are moments when the songs feel like someone is pointing a finger at you until it almost touches the space between your eyes.

More than anything, though, there is shredding. So much weird, tonally abusive shredding. To circle back to the confused hallucinations, one moment — say, "Buried," for example — makes you feel like you're a conquering Viking with an ax. The next — "From Death to Life," perhaps — you're pretty sure the FBI are in your laptop and totally fucking with you. It's not just the tuning scale, either. Hayes writes enchantingly weird stuff. But at its brightest moments, MMVII really brings the listener to strange shores.

The results are less stellar when Hayes eases up. While he makes a gripping plea to take control of one's destiny on "Give In," his laid-back turn on "The Finite Song" doesn't hold together as well. The tuning does him no favors when it comes to some of his vocal melodies. My conscious mind knows the pitch isn't technically off. But my unconscious Western brain doth protest.

The casual metalhead might not be ready for Hayes' experiments. But more studious listeners just might find themselves drawn into the heavy dose of bizarre. - Seven Days VT


"Album Review: Bostjan Zupancic, 'Nothing Special'"

You ever go to a potluck dinner where someone has made a really strange dish? It has some stuff in it you've never had before, or perhaps it's been prepared in a way you're not accustomed to. But then you take a bite and ... you know what? You don't hate it. You even think about posting a picture to Instagram to show all of your friends that you eat weird shit sometimes.

The second helping is where things get dicey. Those strange ingredients lose their appeal, and you realize, "Hey, maybe the one spoonful was enough." Such has been my experience with the microtonal compositions of Bostjan Zupancic, aka St. Johnsbury's Russ Hayes, and his latest album, Nothing Special.

With last year's MicroMetal Vol II, Hayes dropped his fourth album using the 19-EDO scale, an alternate tuning that can have a startling effect when applied to Western music. As noted in Seven Days' review of that record, the bizarre tuning worked better on the heavier material. It just seemed to cater to Hayes' strengths as both a songwriter and a guitarist. Unfortunately, Nothing Special is at best a more contemplative record and at worst just a bad fit for Hayes' unusual skill set.

Dissonance, drone and sudden key changes are all tools that Hayes can deploy to great effect. The problem on this go-around is the settings in which he has chosen to use his now-characteristic tuning. Take the title track, which attempts a sort of classic rock vibe. Sure, there's plenty of shredding, but the song comes across like a Led Zeppelin tune played off-key. "Twenty-First Century Blues" is even more egregious, an all but unlistenable accidental parody of classic rock.

For the most part, the album does not present Hayes' best lyrical work. What might be intended as self-deprecation often crosses over into petulance and self-loathing — such as on "Interesting Enough." The song is a mostly spoken-word anecdote, an imagined conversation with an unknown and apathetic critic whom Hayes excoriates for either not listening to his music or not understanding it. Between that and "Emailing a Coworker Halfway Across the Globe" — a tune that is literally just Hayes bitching about a coworker — the pettiness gets old quickly.

There are bright spots on the record, however. Hayes and his tuning still make for some riveting instrumentals. "Get Psyched" is a vicious little number, and "Forced Air" has a crushing groove to it. Both tracks serve as opportunities for his guitars to really bite into those microtones.

However, those moments are too rare to keep Nothing Special from being a tough listen. Hayes has shown himself to be a musician who will attempt the unorthodox and risk alienating listeners. Here, that bravery by and large fails him. The record is anti-easy listening, a dish only a few at the party will come back to for a second helping.

Nothing Special is available at bostjanzupancic.bandcamp.com. Give it a listen; I've been wrong before. - Seven Days VT


"ALBUM REVIEW: NOTHING SPECIAL: BY BOSTJAN ZUPANACIC"

Interesting Enough? Interesting Enough and then some.

When I received a copy of “Nothing Special” in the mail. I did not know what to expect, and that in of itself was kind of exciting. Before listening, I reached out to Bostjan Zupancic for a little background on the album. I was intrigued to learn that he has modified his guitar and bass to produce new sounds, all while working with an already alternative tuning.

He went on to say that this album is more closely influenced by his own life that his past releases.

This made a lot of sense upon listening to the album. Right off the instrumental “Get Psyched” offers some seemingly discordant tones that really work, and work well. This is followed up by the seeming blues influenced title track “Nothing Special” Its here that we first hear not only the artist’s voice, which comes through clearly and honestly but also the underlying theme that I felt carried on through the rest of the album. This theme of wanting to be special, or “Interesting Enough” is something a lot of musicians can relate to, myself included. Whether it’s through music or our day jobs, B.Z brings forward a very honest and relatable satire of the self-talk echoing in many of our heads.

This is further reinforced by the track “Emailing A Coworker Halfway Across the Globe.” Full of clever spoken-word, this track reminded me so well of the struggles of getting people to reply so that you can get things done. Also relatable: Trying to pick your words carefully when you’re dealing with a chowderhead on the other end of an email.

All together the album is very real and very honest. It is refreshing to see someone do exactly what they want to do, rather than what might be mainstream: At first, this album might sound odd, the tones might sound foreign. But keep listening, it makes a lot of sense. It works and it is far from more of the same that we are used to.

In a time when we have all heard the same four chords far too many times, presented in often unimaginative ways, the structure, tones, and imagination of this record are more than welcome. I found this to be Interesting Enough, and then some. - Small Town Loud


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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