About Us

There is a good chance you found us accidentally by using the word “taint” in your search (If you found us on purpose, you deserve our accolades). Of course we don’t know what you were looking for, but you stumbled on a damn cool project. Look around; let us help send you on a musical journey. Here you will find a number of album reviews from the strange and extreme to the tame and mainstream. Our reviewers are a bunch of obsessive miscreants. Most of us are avid music collectors and have been involved in the music world for decades. A couple of us have been in or are still in bands.

There are no rules on Tickle Your Taint Blog. Our reviewers might make you laugh, or piss you off; both results are legitimate. One reviewer might write a glowing review of an album another might tear it apart. We may end up adopting a single review system, such as five stars, or each reviewer may use his own or none at all. We may have a new review every week or we could end up with one every six months. This blog exists as a social experiment to build community among a diverse group of music maniacs – our reviewers and hopefully you. Pull down your knickers, lube up and join us in tickling yours and our taints.

If you are in a band, have released a physical (rather than an MP3) CD or record, and would like us to review your efforts, contact us at tickleyourtaint@yahoo.com

Friday, April 13, 2018

Rivers of Nihil, Where Owls Know My Name (2018)

By Jack Rafferty

Music is subjective and irrational. It is a realm where terms such as “perfect” are essentially meaningless. However, in the spirit of subjectivity, Where Owls Know My Name is a near-perfect album to me. Rivers of Nihil has been a band that I have followed for years now, and their evolution has impressed me quite a bit. In true Vivaldi fashion, each album from Rivers of Nihil has centered on a season. The Conscious Seed of Light (2013) was their full-length emergence, and so spring was the appropriate theme for this inception. It was a powerful beginning, yet also exemplified healthy room for growth. Two years later came Monarchy, blistering summer. A refinement was achieved here, and a greater clarity grasped by the band. While I enjoyed Seed of Light quite a lot (fucking “Rain Eater” nearly knocked me on my ass when I first heard it), it was Monarchy that, for me, solidified Rivers of Nihil as one of the most exceptional technical death metal bands around. Tracks such as “Sand Baptism” and “Suntold” are remarkable.

Now, with Where Owls Know My Name, we enter autumn, a season of silencing, of whispering fallen leaves, of shedding what was to reveal something else beneath, something bare and brutal and raw, a season of both vibrant beauty and stark desaturation. Such a change thematically warrants experimentation with sound, tremulous territory that Rivers of Nihil did not tread lightly. On the contrary, they strode courageously through the mire, and that confidence reflects in the music. The choice to take a more progressive approach was a bold one, considering how fragile the reactions to changing what is already cemented as being great to many can be. While the band members spoke of being initially hesitant to a slight degree, you cannot tell such trepidation ever existed with how powerfully these new elements are exuded, and how masterfully they are integrated.

From the very beginning of the opening track, “Cancer/Moonspeak,” this is evident. A somber, slow, softly spoken introduction, with few notes being played. They give everything time to breathe, to seep in, and once the backing vocals arise, the listener is immediately shown the emotional depth that is to come. These vocals, beginning at a higher register to contrast with and compliment the spoken, almost whispered fronting vocals, soon soar only to fall suddenly and painfully. It is as though one had just then felt such immense loss that they crumpled to their knees and wailed, wailed in agony at all the ungraspable injustice the world is replete with. It was from that moment that I knew this album would be special.

A transition into “The Silent Life” detonates, and we are treated to the first real riff of the album. This song is very much about making statements for what is to come. This riff is the first. It is very simple, and un-technical, in a sense. To me, this is the band stating that they do not need speed or technicality to write good music that is engaging. The riff is at a rather slow tempo, and is accompanied by a blast beat that offers a pleasing dissimilarity, which also gives the listener an idea of how contrasts will be implemented in the music to come. A saxophone solo is not far off, which is the largest statement this track makes, as it cements the fact of radical change that Rivers of Nihil is making with this album. This song also has my favorite guitar solo of the album.

The next track, “A Home,” is one of my personal favorites. The opening riff is once again simple, yet seems to still hold immense weight. It is presented alone, allowing the listener to really take in the brilliant, dense tone and production quality that is achieved on this album. The song then transitions into an ambient section where the drums take center stage, and rightfully so, as they are particularly well done on this track. Then comes the second riff, which is probably the best I have heard in a long time. Again, it is simple, but conveys superb melodies effortlessly. It has the feeling of “this is all I need to do to construct this melody, or to evoke this emotion, and that is all I will use.” This seems exceedingly rare in technical death metal (which, to some degree, is understandable, given that this genre isn’t usually striving for such a goal, but it is refreshing nonetheless). The melodies and interactions between different elements throughout are executed in such a unique and rewarding manner, that it endows each note with meaning.

This is what I mean when I say that Rivers of Nihil is confident in their songwriting. They have the ability to be complex, fast, and technical, but they know that they do not need to rely upon it. Rather, they construct an emotional and sonic flow where every element seems to be used in exactly the right way at the right moment. The closest analogy that I can think of to describe this is the importance of character development, acting, and plot within film. Sure, things such as flashy visual style can be intriguing, or perhaps the use of interesting concepts to build upon can enhance a film, but unless that film has a soul (whatever the fuck that means), unless it can be felt and connected with and flows in a way that supports those various feelings of empathy, there is a certain sense of sterility, falseness, or simply a lack of quality present.

Perhaps the only moment on the album that I think falls a little short in terms of songwriting choice and pacing is during the track, “Subtle Change.” Beginning at the 1:48 mark, and going until approximately 2:51, is a sort of groovy section that transitions directly from a lofty, melodic, almost whispering atmosphere. While I understand the choice to subvert expectations in terms of structure and buildup (I think that is done well many times throughout the album), this is the one moment for me where it just doesn’t work, and it takes me out of the experience each time I hear it. However, this song also has some of my favorite moments on the album, including the chorus, which reminds me a good deal of a Black Crown Initiate chorus, and the outro, which is quite reminiscent of the dark acoustic compositions of Hypno5e (who also recently released a fantastic album).

Another example of what some would think to be a sonic divergence from the metal genre as a whole is the track “Terrestria III.” This track contains synth, electronica, more saxophone, and wouldn’t feel out of place in the Blade Runner score. On paper, such a thing seems completely inconsistent with Rivers of Nihil, yet it is integrated flawlessly, and adds even more wonderful variety and density to the soundscape of this album.

I previously mentioned Black Crown Initiate, which is even more appropriate considering the title track features Andy Thomas, whose clean vocals are possibly the best I know of in the genre. To me, this track also has the best use of the saxophone on the album. There is a far more meditative ambience that allows the saxophone to blend naturally with everything else. In addition, this song has one of my favorite choruses of the album. It is another example of how Rivers of Nihil embrace the “less is more” (at the right moment) philosophy.

The closing track, “Capricorn/Agoratopia” brings it all full circle by beginning as a slightly modified iteration of “Cancer/Moonspeak.” There is a repetition of the opening line, “Fear, fear drowns the mind… and the backing vocals return, with similar tormented anguish, although more so. A sense of familiarity is established, yet there is acknowledgement of change, and the song structure recognizes and builds upon that. It culminates to one of the more brutal sections of the album (along with “Old Nothing” and “Death Is Real”), contrasting with the beginning wonderfully, then reverting to the thoughtful atmosphere, coupled with the saxophone once more, as though the closure to this album is a final statement of the band simultaneously embracing this change, while also not forgetting who they are or where they started. There is a sense of a sonic narrative permeating beyond the album itself, in addition to the narrative and thematic flow within the album.

In terms of songwriting, pacing, ability, presentation, production, and thematic and emotional depth, there are few equals to this album. While I have touched upon many tracks of Owls in a somewhat singular sense, this album must, I repeat, must be listened to as a whole and without distraction. Overall, Rivers of Nihil have produced an album that accomplishes a balance between the heaviness of death metal with more progressive, melodic elements masterfully. Beyond that, they are truly adept in building song structures that can be felt deeply at every moment throughout. Everything is placed exactly where it feels it should. Every note belongs. Nothing feels superfluous or excessive. There is both a conciseness and a complexity present. Despite the many influences and genres involved, Rivers of Nihil execute a compositional seamlessness that is unparalleled by most. I cannot overstate the intensity, intricacy, and depth of Where Owls Know My Name. If there is one album you listen to this year, make it this one.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dolores O’Riordan (1971-2018)

Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie! (That’s all I've got).

I was always somewhat ambivalent about The Cranberries. I do remember hearing some of their radio hits on the radio. Dolores always sounded like she could have been Sinead O’Conner’s little sister. This was not due to where they came from, but due to the quality of their voices. I will always have a soft spot for the song “Dreams,” as it reminds me of driving through the Arizona desert as the clock creeped to midnight on my way to work. It had a haunting and melancholy quality that seemed to be an ingredient in most of their songs. Later in life, I worked for a lady that was Dolores’s second cousin, which was sort of cool.


In 1994, I woke up to the radio playing “Zombie.” I thought the voice was reminiscent of Sinead O’Connor, which would have been great since it had been a long time since I had heard a new song by her that I liked. At the end of the song, the DJ stated that the song was by The Cranberries. Not too long after this, I bought Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? (1993) and No Need to Argue (1994). Dolores O’Riordan had a great voice, which peaked interest in the band. Musically, The Cranberries were quite mainstream, but they also seemed to incorporate various new-wave influences. I was quite partial to the moody, dreamy songs, which sometimes had a vibe similar to the 10,000 Maniacs. I also liked it when they rocked out a bit more, allowing for greater intensity in O’Riordan’s voice. She seemed to be quite earnest. Through the years, I have listened to the first three Cranberries records a lot, as my girlfriend loved them. Will miss her voice.

Jack Rafferty:
As I sat in an Irish tour bus, air stagnant with the breath of tourists, traversing the Dingle Peninsula, I rested my head upon the window and gazed out at the gray-white sky. The icy mist of the Atlantic, the grasses along the road, and the caves and moss-coated, darkened rock of the coast rolled by. In the distance, the Three Sisters loomed in the fog, waves of land rising and frozen to the horizon. Upon turning inland, the sight of a large, elegant home among the green hills seemed out of place. Its architecture was like some hodgepodge of a church, a suburban house, and an old village cottage, all fallen together in sharp contrast to the surrounding landscape. The driver announced that this was the home of the recently deceased Dolores O’Riordin. The house stood, silent and empty, in the Atlantic breeze. Above it, the clouds, dimly lit, rolled onward.

Dolores O’Riordin’s voice filled my mind as a child, and was lost to the obscurity of time. When I rediscovered The Cranberries at a later age, it was like hearkening back to some diluted, murky dream. A sudden realization of something forgotten and left in the bog of one’s thought and memory. This seems appropriate to me in a way, as Dolores’ voice is quite dreamlike, and it seems apt that it was lost within them.

While a good deal of their discography doesn’t appeal to me at this point in my life, I will always enjoy the darker and more ethereal songs, almost exclusively a result of Dolores’ eclectic and lovely voice. Songs like “Zombie,” though a cliché example, really convey her ability to evoke sorrow and melancholy, and her characteristic intonation. The section that proceeded the final chorus always sounded to me much like weeping. The quietude and the soaring of her voice in songs like “Put Me Down” will now always remind me of the silver winds of Ireland’s southern coast. The austere gannets gliding in the sea-breeze.

It is very unfortunate that Dolores is no longer here, and even though the material things in her life, such as that strange home in the green hills near Sybil Point, are left to be silent, her voice, that was dormant in the depths of my memory for so long, will not be.