Monday, 2 August 2021

Billie Eilish "Happier Than Ever" (2021)


Just a reminder, Billie is still a teenager. This is remarkable within the context of a wonderfully mature and wise record that sees the young star navigate fame and fortune with a rarefied grace. Her lyrics here are a treasure to embrace. I hope she can continue in this well handled direction, were too many that have come before end up ravished by the spotlight, media and unfair pressures of fame. For two siblings making quirky music together from their bedroom, to then be catapulted to the peak of stardom, this is quite the force to reckon with. The music too moves with this mature navigation of choppy waters. Stripping back youthful experiments with noise and ASMR, the ship is now steered in a direction reminiscent of many classic singer songwriters that glowed in the spotlight of decades forgotten to this generation.

Billie's voice has flourished from intimate wordings and quirky whispers to classy undressings of emotion through power and strength. Vulnerable, yet in control and laying all bare to be heard by those who listen. Having frequently been at the attention of a news cycle set on critiquing her presentation of self, the topics of the record get wrapped up in a critical awareness of this pressure which she replies to with unshakeable truth through reason. For young people growing up, these messages are so on point. The mesmerizing transient drone of Not My Responsibility sets an intense focus for Billie to talk truth of all the commentary on her clothes, appearance and sexuality, illuminating that the problem lies with those who choose to speculate and judge themselves.

Getting Older and My Future deliver such a charming maturity and positivity from a young person navigating the waves. "Cause I'm in love with my future, can't wait to meet her", wonderful lyrics, its so nice to hear warm outlook on ones life and aging. The classic taste of airy reverberated synths, soft inviting pianos, gentle guitar strumming and crafty grooving baselines somehow nestle sweetly between their "traditional" sound with tracks like Oxytocin, I Didn't Change My Number and Overheated, these songs being more rooted in the style that defined her breakout.

Billie may take the spotlight but Finneas deserves much praise for masterfully expanded the albums pallet to sound as if a group of top session musicians had been brought in to gloss up the electronic aesthetic of his When We Fall Asleep Where We Go instrumentation. The record navigates both ends of the spectrum and all in between as its run time offers up a fair helping of variety. Billie too overlaps her playful whisperings and glowing traditional singing to keep things healthily interesting. Their chemistry is sublime, offering up an engrossing engagement from subdued instrumentals that embrace sparsity and slow tempos to give keen power to the minimal melodies and aesthetics left to be heard. Most the instruments arrive soft, ambient and incidentally with flourishes of energy coming from snappy percussion forging interesting grooves.

With every listen I've felt a fizzle in the end starting at NDA, a quite remarkable lyrical tale and musing that doesn't seem to hit the stride instrumentally, the bite of the words just don't resonate for some unknown reason. It tempo shifts up at the end, transitioning into Therefore I Am, which quite honestly felt all too much like a rehash the debut records vibe. Then the title track, gets off to a wonderful start but suffers growing pains agressing up into a sing along grunge blowout that lacked the right melody or lyric to give it the vibe it clearly strides for. No album is perfect and not every track resonates quite like some of Billie's words which are as stated, quite remarkable for the pitfalls she is successfully navigating.

Your Power makes a personal favorite for me. With a soft gush of Ethereal wind, the two usher in a heartwarming guitar and voice song reminiscent of Mazzy Star. Its lyrical content feels intentionally offset from the melancholy vibes the song ushers forth. I doubt Happier Than Ever will have quite the impact its predecessor had however between the two we simply have more fantastic songs to enjoy and plenty more to look forward too it seems. The one thing I hope people take away from this one is the lyrics. So much to be learned from someone else's experience here.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 31 July 2021

Jim Kirkwood "Master Of Dragons" (1991)


Its round two with Jim Kirkwood and sticking to these early releases has unsurprisingly yielded a similar experience to that of Middle-Earth before it. Likely to be Tolkein inspired, or at least adjacent given its title and cover. Master Of Dragons steps into a more obscure realm as the 70s inspired electronica dominates its bolder phases. Unpinning the music with its whirl of psychedelic oscillations, a curious feeling of wandering is born. Less scenic and more personal, the music paints lonely journeys through mind and soul with moments of beauty woven between when its keyboard synths and soft reverbs forge yearning atmospheres of nature in a colorful bloom.

With its two halves both comprised of shifts, twists and phases in their twenty minute stays, its the second half that darkness a little. Percussion is heard for the first time as a steady, simplistic beat hold pace for the brooding of eerie, spacey synths. It breaks through with lively dramatic strings punching and jolting in with a threat, the tension growing yet without crescendo. The song plays itself out on a string of melodies, intertwining, steadily winding down only for deep tom drums to pound and stir up a racy finish that doesn't quite find a crown or peak and thus fades out into obscurity.

Its immensely enjoyable for this listener. At the time I imagine there would of been little interest given the dated electronic tones behind the curb of the 80s and 90s. Yet with nostalgic interest and the awakening of Dungeon Synth to the Likes of Fantasy and Tolkein inspired music, this plays wonderfully like a video game soundtrack, the backing to wild adventures of imagination and thus feels oddly fresh and exciting. Then again many discoveries of old can be like that. Music discovery is always fun but with the added dimension of being able to share them through streaming, I've found this music to be a wonderful addition to the livestream experience.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Tyler The Creator "Call Me If You Get Lost" (2021)


Keeping on track with a constant flow of records over the years, this sixth installment in Tyler's evolution feels like a step back from the striking charm of IGOR. Its personal preference but I'd argue the presence of DJ Drama drags this project down a notch or two. With his frequent commentaries, a steady flow of interrupting remarks bark over the musics atmosphere, seemingly disconnected in tone and temperament. At apt times he does indeed reinforces Tyler's words and points but mostly he seems like an obnoxious observer interrupting.

Blemishes aside, Tyler's production is on fire again, bringing cutting edge beats and grooves to his pallet of colorful quirky synths. Drawing from classic Soul and R&B vibes it ends up a flavorful show, rich in variety and some avenues into the dark and grizzly aggressive side of Hip Hop music. It would be hard to argue a favorite niche. Its perhaps the swings from the breezy love struck summer vibes of Sweet, into the funk and crunk of the bass driven groovier Rise that gives its flavors more spice as the record weaves past monotony much to the delight of this listener.

Getting both halves on point its the topicality that goes over my head at times but there is plenty of keen lyrical tales. Reflective themes of past triumphs and contemplating personal change illuminates alongside some of his most baited lyrics with the "Rolls Royce pull up" line on Lumberjack. It and other dives into social political topics come with clever rhymes and food for thought. He seems particularly on point in this regard, especially when in a more casual tone, opening up.

Call Me If You Get Lost also hosts a few guests of notoriety who bring some interesting verses. This paired with its fluid changing of instrumental ideas and DJ Drama's commentaries has the records quality feeling oddly fractured. Its a smooth, fun ride, visiting place to place like a road passing through villages, towns and cities. There is plenty to see and touch but as a whole... it doesn't have that defining piece or magnetism like IGOR did. Ultimately a very cool album brimming with talent and creativity but lacking a little glue? I can't quite land my finger on it.

Rating : 7/10

Friday, 16 July 2021

Malcom Horne "Infinity Volume II" (2021)

 

 Smooth, sweet and soulful, this secondary installment of Infinity pairs the modern Low-Fi influenced Jazz Hop aesthetic with a classy voice through exuberant musicianship. Malcolm litters these dreamy beats with gushes of emotional expression, always emerging through subtly and captivating fondly as a voice. Each of its twenty seven cuts are rooted in the timely pairing of percussive grooves and jazzy persuasion, foundational to its flushes of warm sunny color that ooze from guitars, synths and the like, giving many of the loops a real sense of unique identity.

Its other edge comes from its backbone of looped beats. Born less of sampling and more of instrumental arrangement, its texture and aesthetic is a consistent dazzle of breezy easiness and soothing reverbs, taking us to an easy space to escape all worries and leave ones mind at ease. With this, more love and care can be heard as little accents and notations arise from multiple instruments to compliment its main direction. M.A.D. is a keen example, its fluster of melody jumps between instruments with the tang of a guitar lick nestled between, the resonance is simply lush.

At a whopping ninety one minutes, Volume II excels at finding its target audience. Where Volume I fumbled in its inconsistencies, II focuses very much on the chilled out and lounge alike styling of its sound, channeling the music into a very streamer friendly lane. As a lone record it one could yearn for a little more progression or evolution to take off for new heights, especially when a swooning guitar solo drops in. Of course restraint is placed with these songs being fitted for smiley backgrounds.

Despite that, Volume II is actually rather engrossing as a lone experience. When paired with an activity, focus arises as the meditative quality of its easy flow and steady pace locks one into a mental groove. My only negative take aways are some of the sudden cut offs, Lemonade a criminal culprit of sapping away the buzz just as that charming lead guitar was wooing away. I'm also left missing a little of the punchier Synth tones heard on the first record. Otherwise its a fine collection of lush songs with a strong human expression some of these other Jazz Hop beats miss out on.

Rating 7/10

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Jay-Z & Linkin Park "Collision Course" (2004)

 

Delighted by the recent Rap Metal adjacent works of Hackivist, I found myself thinking back to this record, which I had barely paid attention too upon its release. Back then I probably had my mind deep in the world of Extreme Metal and nose turned up... But with age, a renewed fondness for the music of my teens now has me wide eyed getting into this collaboration by two of the industries biggest names of the era.

Born of MTV's Mash Ups show and masterminded by Mike Shinoda, the brief six track Collision Course sounds born of that spirit, the interchanging of instrumentals and accappelas between opposing musicians. As a collaboration its sounds just like that, however the enthusiasm shared between the two camps had Linkin Park and Jaz-Z meeting in the studio to re-record parts of Shinoda's arrangements to ensure quality.

It speaks volumes to the seamless nature, everything aligns sweetly. Crunky percussive kicks and snappy snares give the metallic aggression of the guitars a ground to the Hip Hop persona. Both Chester's moving cleans and raw screams match the Rap instrumentals, Mike's roll as a rapper obviously fits but its mostly Linkin Park who dominate the vibes with their songs taking up most the runtime.

Big Pimping and Izzo stand out as the cuts which hold onto their original beats but the other songs get overridden by the metallic energy when the guitars arrive. Its all fantastic but perhaps my emotional attachments have me reveling in nostalgia from these re-worked bangers. Points Of Authority and One Step Close overload 99 Problems for goosebumps inducing mania as Jay-Z drives the crossover with his raps.

I am ultimately left fascinated by this EP, a commercial peak at the end of an era when my two favorite genres rubbed shoulders. For all the Rap Metal I've adored, missing out on this was a major fumble. I can't get past how wonderful the chemistry is. It feels like an obvious mash up yet that doesn't hold it back where you might expect. Its like bottled lightning, perhaps amplified by my own personal excitement. Given the two toured this together, the accompanying DVD is now mandatory viewing for me.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Turnstile "Turnstile Love Connection" (2021)


 After the release of Time & Space Ive been keenly awaiting another album from this keen Hardcore outfit. This blitz of an EP has got me buzzing now! Baltimore outfit Turnstile give an aged sound renewed youthful excitement, frothing with energy and kicking in subtle influences to character their sound and start apart in the crowd.

Holiday kicks things of with its soft murmuring baseline bursting into a riot of sharp power chord strumming. Its somewhat predictable for this group yet lands like a riot, the hooks of Brendan Yates reeling it in, "Now its a holiday", "I can never feel the cold", "I can sail with no direction". There is so much exuberance being exhorted, exactly what he does best. In the opening and throughout the use of an electronic 808 akin drum kit adds a little bark to the rhythm section. Subtle, yet a texture that gives the music a little of that extra character they bring to many of their Hardcore songs.

No Surprise serves as a dreamy soulful interlude to abridge its Grunge number Mystery, fitted out with a brief noisy solo and curious spacey synths in its intro and outro, that later sounding like a space ship taking off. Title track TLC takes the tone back to the bands roots with a strictly fast, hard Hardcore sound with fiery vocals and gang shouts too. Its mid section brings in electronic toms as the music pivots, an odd choice that once again musters a little oddity. It gets explored again as the track devolves swiftly with an experimental vocal cut to end the brief eight minutes of music.

Turnstile is in a groove, writing keen songs that have the power and charisma of what came before. The use of alternate percussive aesthetics and moments of electronic and vocal experimentation are peculiar on analysis yet to just enjoy the music, it works and flows effortlessly. Something in the temperament of this group just lets it all work. If these are the "weaker" tracks left out from an up and coming album then we are in for a treat! We are probably in for a treat either way...

Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Old Sorcery "War Of The Old Kingdom" (2021)

 

It is my guess that the recent Hand Of Merlin soundtrack left the Finnish musician with inspiration and ideas that have spilled over to this wondrous three track EP. They are somewhat disconnected from one another yet equally fantastical, the thematic moods and drama of the OST had Old Sorcery reaching into new territory. Now clawing it back into the Old Sorcery cannon, a familiar esoteric, foreign and cryptic voice narrates these three adventures, giving them a loosely unifying through line.

Council Of The Battle Sorcerers is an eight minute epic of distant tensions, epics yet to be told in a fantasy realm of gleaming beauty and natural magics. It steadily journeys through majestic scenery, the discernible words of a shadowy, ancient voice ushers in moments of creeping darkness that never outpaces the warm embrace of this lush soundscape. Its adventurous melodies, through many phases, continuously usher in a magical warmness fit for a world of fantastical beings devoid of technology.

Triumphant Eyes ramps up the intensity in a sudden change of direction. The drums of war beckon, tense strings heed the call of battle and a sense of coming destruction broods. Its an animated number of moving parts and scenic magnitude fit for a big screen epic. The drama is flushed aside as our cryptic narrator returns over the sounds of sword and shield clattering on the battlefield. From there though, things steadily unwind and fizzle out for echos of the voice to call again from the ashes.

Echoes In The Stillness is perhaps a crossroads between the two. War drums drive the track forward as its melodies linger between the fantastical and illusive mysterious of this fantasy realm. As the drums pull out it meanders its direction to that recurring voice again, this time a little less potent in direction and theme. Overall this is an impressive release bringing new ideas into the fold but aside its one unifying element, seems a bit disjointed track to track. It is all immensely enjoyable though.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Hocico "Broken Empires" (2021)

 

Ever since Memorias Atrás, Ive always been in the mood for some Hocico. I've found there output to be somewhat stale despite loving their Aggro-Tech sound. Its in smaller doses I tend appreciate their work more. This two track EP with accompanying remixes has been fun! Both offer up hard banging beats and harsh synths to revel in a little cyber goth dystopia. Both songs run through the expectant arrangements, typical build ups and flows but its the aesthetic detail that catches the ear on this outing.

Title track Broken Empires hints at its killer bite early on as dense chunky bass synths ride up against a stiff hi hat on swift repetition. The cymbal is interchanged with that classic 90s House hi hat tone and when the song peaks the two resonate off one another with a relenting energy that's hard to resist. The dark spooky melodies that accompany are decent but its really the labored texture of that bass synth that drives the song along, drifting in and out of intensities with a helping of atmospheric design.

The other song, Lost World, is a production powerhouse of driving density, all the sounds are crammed into gaps between its thick rhythm section of pounding kicks and engulfing bass synth. Its a rather linear push of dance energy fit for the club floor, mostly ebbing and flowing around its main catch while also throwing in a little niche audio gimmick as the shouted words get cut and shuffled into the crowded mix.

The additional cuts of Broken Empires offer some alternate version but with little deviation from the original they add little to whats already been offered. These two songs are tight and well written. I wonder if in the duration of an album they would be lost on me given the mediocrity of Artificial Extinction. Having to focus on just two songs really let me digest and enjoy them! These will be songs to return to.

Rating: 3/10

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Backxwash "I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses" (2021)

 

As a personally highly anticipated record, this one did not disappoint. God Has Nothing To Do With This grabbed my attention with its metallic crossover appeal, uniting the darkness available to Metal with the grittiness of Rap, uniting them with renewed artistry. I was swooned by the grabbing expressions and impressed by Backxwash's frothing flow. Returning a year later with this brief twenty two minute album, she's bottled the evil of the Sabbath inspired predecessor and unleashed it again in a darkly Rap context that flirts with the danger of channeled noise and anger.

As the record plays, it descends. The overall tone gradually lurches into the bowls of hell as drum grooves groan with the pains of its horrorscapes. Driven by deep, gritty and slow baselines, uncomfortable atmospheres are bred from noises that align conventions in an unsettling fashion. Distant screams, distorted voices and gritty Industrial sounds overcast the soft and subtle melodies that have an intentional lack of impact. Its design gives wake to the power of texture and aesthetic which powers the music forth on slabs of filthy, intriguing noise, guided by timely percussive patterns.

The lyrical content is harrowing. Is it the wrenching delivery gushing forth raw pain and hurt? The dark journeys the words walk us through, or the alarming concerns some of these tales turn up? At times its all three as Backxwash walks us through some troubling struggles. The tales of vulnerability, abuse and lack of support around transitioning and drug abuse are all to vivid. There is no cheese to be found, the malevolent tone of the record mirrors the underlying pain and suffering endured. 

The opening sample, purpose of pain is a rather underwhelming start but with reflection of the emotional narrative undertaken, it seems all to fitting that ones emotional pain extended to the wrongs of our environments. Clipping turns up an instrumental production for Blood In The Water on what feels like the "true" intro track. 666 In Luxaxa is an utterly fantastic repurposing of the jovial and spirited singing style one would associate with African music. Its misplacement in this darkness is fascinating. After a string of solo tracks, a slew of guests line for the last six tracks.

So many Hip Hop records feel routine with the roll of features but these collaborations feel so integral, defining the music with their presence. Ada Rock's scream rap hooks on the title track are simply unforgettable, sounding like a demonic entity raging with malice and spite. Wail Of The Banshee takes the win on my favorite Instrumental. Its a bleak and harrowing soundscape of human pain and torture, driven by monotone bass and slow drums that put all the emphasis on its evil, terrorizing aesthetic.

Like last time, I'm left floored, feeling like this album offers so much in its short duration that will continue revealing secrets from its dense textures for time come. Last time there was some uplift and reprise to be found in conclusion but this time we burn to ashes and ride out on a drive of speed and momentum as the music refuses to relent from its plunge into the abandon. Whats both beautiful yet glum is the dark attachment to reality. Much of the lyrics here are truly troubling.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Foreign Objects "Galactic Prey" (2015)

 

Nostalgic adventures to bands of years gone past often yield surprises! Not only did I learn of The Undiscovered Numbers & Colors nine years prior to Universal Culture Shock but also this one, Galactic Prey, released eleven years on after reuniting as a band. Its been rather quiet since then and perhaps we can expect the next installment to come a half decade on, given their timely track record! With this in mind, they could easily be forgiven for any transformation in identity time has brought with it.

And that shift in tone is obvious from the get go. Initially finding myself stiff to the change, familiarity showed it is the character and spirit that excels here. The Technical Death Metal aspect of old feels steered more to an Arena Metal energy akin to Avenged Sevenfold. The color once heard bleeding from the guitars gets a dazzling new direction fit for a big stage and summer festivals. There is much passion in Deron Miller and newly on-boarded Kenneth Hunter's presence. The duo's vocals soar as a focal point, alongside blazing guitar solos that routinely step into the limelight. It is a trying chemistry, honest and sincere yet always slightly off note.

As one to not digest lyrics well, it really felt like the words were being thrust forth with a grand sense of theme. Wrapped around it lively instrumentation built a vivid landscape of color and aggression woven with a captivating spirit. From here many ambitious experiments blossomed and charmed with vocal effects and other manipulations creating some wonderful moments beyond the normal pallet of sounds. Saman Ali plays a wonderful roll with the keyboards, often subtle with aesthetics and timely with inflections of melody, his performance feels possibly under utilized as the electronic and symphonic aspects were class when in focus

When there record fumbles is in production. With a budget of thirteen grand, the fidelity is demo like, competent and punchy but unbalanced and frequenting audio clashes the snappy music pushes through. It does blemish a lot of the music and does not do it justice. The album's title track is also written by a different musician, Jonathan Masi. Its main riff feels like a rehash of an old Foreign Objects song, which is rather akin to the CKY sound, which this record has quite a few flushes with. Its definitely a good thing. Ultimately I'm left feeling like this would of been an utterly engrossing album under better guidance and direction because the music itself always sounds paces better than its muddied, crowded aesthetic.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 2 July 2021

Hacktivist "Hyperdialect" (2021)

 

 Brash, boisterous and bold, front men Jermaine Hurley and Jot Maxi define this record with a stiff, biting presence as two angered individuals pushing through modern madness. A sharp gritty street dialect and vicious, snarky raps have them foaming at the mouth, deflecting hate, affirming their status and tunneling into anti-establishment sentiments on rotation. As a hybrid of Djent Metal and Grime you could call Rap Metal, nothing like Limp Bizkit of course, its ultimately this duo that give Hacktivist a distinction in the modern Metal scene. Five years on from Outside The Box the group sound sharpened up alongside a lineup change with Ben Marvin being replaced.

Stripped down and reconstructed, the metallic elements of the guitars often delve into the simpler forms as big slabs of chunky low end noise slug out poly grooves with an Industrial menace. Reinforced by slick drums popping punchy snappy patterns, its modern clarity creates quite the sterile and lifeless fest of filthy noise that taps into the simplicity of rhythm as it pounds away its chugging noises. Weaving in some synth elements and Industrial sound design, the alienated sound feels like a unique match for the dystopian anger of the duo sharing the limelight with the mic.

Despite some quite obvious ideas in aesthetics, the band pull together these elements to make some fantastic songs, avoiding some pitfalls of breakdown riffs and the atypical with more fleshed out sounds and well written songs. Lyrically things can be a little patchy on the thematic front as some of the political lyrics feel somewhat buzz wordy and over simplified. When on the same wavelength with the instrumentals the energy is fiery as these sharp teethed rhymes hit with anger and occasionally spark a note with a couple of great hooks across its eleven tracks.

Its opening song Anti-Emcees leans a little heavy on the one word rhyme scheme. Its an odd opening choice, sets a different tone for whats to come. As the album plays the distance between Grime and Metal disappears, the two melding into a chemistry that will ultimately appeal more to Metalheads who are partial to Grime than the other way around. Given this crossover genre has offered little since the meteoric craze around the millennium, Hacktivist show there is still room to be explored however with the knack to write a killer song like the bands before them, it could be something special but for now they are putting out some well housed tunes within their limits!

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

The Alan Parsons Project "Pyr△mid" (1978)


Following a thematic and dated take on artificial intelligence with I Robot, The Alan Parsons Project return with this concept record based on the pyramids of Giza. Its title may lack subtlety but the lyrics seem mostly disconnected now learning of its conception. It could be some ignorance on my behalf but this record feels more like a continuation of what came before it, Progressive Rock with a charming reach into the adjacent sounds and styles of the time. It too seamlessly weaves between sweet moods and measured temperaments as it sways from a sporadic rump of British patriotic royal trumpets to a heart broken ballad in the flow of just a couple songs.

Classy and keen they triumph a lot of percussive groove and simple melodic pleasures as songs jive with an energetic drive rhythmically. The bass is often driving and it comes to a heard on In The Lap Of The Gods as mighty voices chime in over its dramatic climax, excited by a exuberant string section. I love how the punchy Rock grooves, jiving Funk and R&B influences rub shoulders with these swells of symphonic excellence. Its not until Hyper-Gamma-Spaces that some of the Tangerine Dream inspired sounds of 70s synthesizers return on a whirling psychedelic tangent.

Overall the album feels somewhat brief in its nine tracks with each song tending to stick to its one dimension. Its ending is another stunning track, dazzling with cinematic might in its opening and tailing off into a teary song of regret and loneliness. Its a true ending of a tale, just one I'm not sure where it started. Pyr△mid flows wonderfully but lyrically I didn't feel the connection. As much as I enjoy this project, my retroactive ears pick up on a lot of adjacent style when its comes to originality. Can't Take It With You is the biggest culprit, its wonderful guitar solo sadly to obvious in its imitation of Pink Floyd. Other than that blush, its quite a wonderful album to partake in.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Fear Factory "Aggression Continuum" (2021)

 

Having been on somewhat of a Fear Factory binge recently, It would of been nice to have first written about some of their classic albums as the Los Angeles band have stuck rigidly to their formula over the years. So unsurprisingly, this new collection of ten songs offers little more than a rehashing of ideas that were once a breath of fresh air. That being said, Aggression Continuum is hard not to enjoy. Fear Factory tighten up the mechanical pummeling machinery with crisp and clicky drums, tightly chugged low end grooves and punchy synths to amp up a spacey component to their sound.

With an anger fueled theme of anti establishment dystopia, the tracks move through predictable motions. Swaying from the tight, cold mechanical channeled aggression of their syncopated rhythmic assault, to the warm uplifts led by Burton Bell's enigmatic clean vocals. They swoop in with a swooning power that pulls the metallic beast towards the heavens above. Between them, there is always room for a Groove or Thrash riff to bust out and please the crowd with the mosh riff but on this album those break out moments didn't carry the impact like they've had in the past.

A couple good songs in the opening get things off to a good start but as the music stretches on the song structures dissipates into mediocrity as to much hinges on the singular ideas. Its symphonic component could of been an interesting avenue to be explored as its underwhelming yet gleaming strings offer a little more humanity that the Industrial leaning synth tones one might expect. This "cleaner" tone sounds nice but the chemistry rarely feels more than the sum of its parts.

With Fear Factory being a band of intentness pummeling of tightly syncopated grooves, much of the record becomes a drone as track after track does little to splay aesthetics or formula. Its more interesting riffs and moments gets spaced out to far between this monotony and thus with each listen the excitement wore of quickly. Ive been trying to make an effort to avoid predictable records like this. Given its been six years I was really hoping the absence would yield something special on return.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 25 June 2021

DMX "Exodus" (2021)

 
As a controversial artist who pushed record breaking numbers in my youth, it was only a few years back that I properly gave DMX's first few records a full spin. It was enjoyable and introduced me to a bunch of classic tracks. Ultimately tho it left me with mixed feelings between his wild barking raw talent and the heavily contradicted lyrical content. Exodos is the first posthumous record since his passing in April of this year and as I understand it was a work in progress, planning a return after nine years without a release. To the extent his passing changed this quality of this release may remain unknown but It does feel somewhat rushed.

 Exodus suffers the recurring fate of 90s instrumentals trying to chase trends while remaining anchored to the bombast of eras classic percussive style. As a result these beats mostly feel contrived and stiff, trying to overlap modern aesthetics with old grooves and falling flat in the process. Paired with this, DMX sounds aged, his wild barks, growls and aggressive presence lacking a bite it once had. His lyrics feel lacking in growth or maturity, recycling his topics without renewed perspective. When he does rhyme in that direction, it is often awkward and uncomfortable, like his raps to his son. The meaning and intent is there but wordings are so un-poetic and plain, essentially the same turn offs from twenty three years ago.

On the flip side, does he get into a memorable flow or drop a catchy hook? This was one of DMX's big strengths and its completely lacking. The record is heavily bolstered with features that shift its identity all over the place. Snoop turns up, along with The LOX, Jay-Z and Nas, who unsurprisingly drops the albums best verses. Bringing on Alicia Keys, Bono and Usher for sung sections also feels out of turn with how things were once done. They seem like posthumous decisions by producers. The record ends with the tradition of prayers in direct contradiction with his lifestyle and choices. A tired theme to wrap up a weak record of mostly mediocrity.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Foreign Objects "The Undiscovered Numbers & Colors" (1995)

 

Excited to dive into an extra helping of recently revived magics enjoyed years back, this five track EP was sadly not at the level of the lively Universal Culture Shock released nine years later. In that time between the duo had formed and toured with CKY, undoubtedly becoming better musicians in the process. Whats remarkable is how keen the music by these two young high school teenagers actually is.

The Undiscovered Numbers & Colors is again a Progressive Death Metal project, inspired by the evolving scene of the decade and smothered with melody. They have forged quite the upbeat, vibrant sound, jostling with technical feats and discordant creativity, the music flows through a web of intricacies weighted by the rough throaty shouts of Deron Miller and Jess Margera's dexterous percussive might.

The core of the music resides in the guitars and drums. Its fun, lively, chained by aggression and lifted by its color. Along for the ride an ambiguous synth section aligns the music with a thin string backing, odd noises and the occasional drones of noise that sounds like audio feedback. Strangely I like its presence in this form, slightly alien and unsightly. Delve opens up another strand with a gorgeous keyboard intro on a bright luscious piano. Its darkly majesty quite the shift in tone but its enjoyable.

Ultimately I'm left with a familiar feeling that comes from exploring old records I missed out on at the time. It will be cliche but I would of bonded with this one much more in my youth. As I final remark I'd say for a supposed demo the production quality is impressive. The instruments are punchy, vibrant and distinct, something other extreme bands where just figuring out around this era in time. Impressive.

Rating: 5/10