Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Mare Cognitum "Phobos Monolith" (2014)


It was once the experience of a music lover to flick through crates of vinyl sleeves in a dusty record store, looking for something to land your attention and empty your wallet. In the digital age it is Bandcamp alone that has managed to recreate that market place feeling and so easily am I sucked in to browsing binges. If this illustrious artwork and the promise of "Cosmic Black Metal" isn't enough to lure me in then abandon awaits thee. Fortunately this music matches the class of this modern Black Metal act, a one man band from Portland Oregon. Its got all the shades of Progressive, Post and Shoegaze, not wondering far from the American blueprint, culminating in a sweet experience of darkly voyages into the symphonic abyss.

Two of its four tracks reside more so in the traditional lane. Entropic Hallucinations opens up with a devilish, infesting blast beat and snaky grinding guitar riff played with an allure aided from a sweep effect cruising past its hurtling rhythm like icy winds. Ephemeral Eternities, being the other, also has cunning execution of blast beats with rapid tom drum fire. Going through progressive structures that "follows ones nose" so to speak, they embark on arrangements of tremolo riffs, maniacal drumming and screams both guttural and shrill that check all the boxes of familiarity with inklings of particular bands as influences on this flavorful journey of scale.

The records production to be merited. Phobos Monolith for all its extremities is masterfully mixed to make cushioned and warm tones of all its instruments. They reside within reverberated spaces to amplify its cosmic, astral leaning in theme. The song writing is also champion, it can lock in your attention for fifty minutes as these songs twist, wind, soar and scale. Album opener Weaving The Thread Of Transcendence take a prize for the most progressive track, starting from mysterious embers it stokes a flame that turns into a roaring fire of color as the song blossoms with bright guitar leads and plundering unions with a hurtling momentum stoked by the drumming.

Noumenon rocks the shoegazing strand strongly on a warm and colorful track that almost sways into Alcest territory if it wasn't for snarling, viscous screams anchoring it to darkness. As mentioned before this record has many flavors and they come together sweetly. A very solid record, perhaps just shy of greatness, missing something exceptional. Its foundation is bedrock but never quite exceeds itself. Very impressive, I will be back to check out more of this band soon!

Friday, 21 June 2019

Future "Save Me" (2019)


The self titled Future was a fun record. I found it in the perfect mood for some fun Trap flavor. Fancying some more I went for this new EP but the seven track Save Me offers isn't quite that. Future experiments with a new direction while still operating within the Trap and Mumble Rap circle. The Atlanta rapper brings a host of producers onboard to create a sound very much following in the footsteps of Travis Scott. The result is hit and miss, mostly miss, on the production front. Future's braggadocio and excessively slurred and stylized wording leaves much to be desired but generally amplifies the beats that don't land as well with shallow lyrics. There is a loose theme of drug abuse and mental health but it drops off after the opening track, resurfacing vaguely in spots.

There is a lot of glossy reverb, auto tune and voicing at work. It has a soft Ethereal edge with its indulgent tone but can barely escape the grasp of its influences. Many bursts of vocal groans and discernible auto tune inflections reek of Rodeo, even arrangements and constructs have a uncanny blueprint. A merit is found with Shotgun, a poppy sung vocal hook reigns in the airy atmosphere at work. Its sunny, uplifting but with a belly of melancholy. Very catchy but little else of the record finds this chemistry and with a lack of engaging lyricism the Trap and Mumble tropes end up being rather irritating. Unfortunately its mostly forgettable.

Favorite Track: Shotgun
Rating: 3/10

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Living Colour "Stain" (1993)


I may just close the book on this particular musical avenue. A staleness is setting in from a band in steady decline. Their sparkling debut Vivid was quite the experience but since then the re-arranging of influences isn't landing anywhere significant. This time around a tonal rawness and Industrial edge are introduced. Its crass production takes a step back again, the guitar tone has a loose, gritty tone, fit for Thrash and Hardcore riffs but lacking glue. Its on a separate plane from the bass guitar and the musical aesthetic has a sparseness Glover barely holds together with his singing.

His presence is warm in tone, smooth in delivery but the lyrics are handled bluntly. Ideals and topics are persuaded through plain language that sounds so of the time and frankly dated. Its socially and political oriented as you'd expect and the themes range from wealth guilt to sexuality and all of them are expressed with little room for reflection. Essentially I am listing points where this record doesn't resonate. Nothing here is truly awful but the record passes without any attention grabbing moments.

Vernon Reid does get to flash off his advantageous guitaring ability with wild, erupting, dazzling solos however they arise from mediocrity which dampens the impact. There is actually a fair arsenal of thrash and groove riffs in the mix but something in albums raw aesthetic dispels any magic. Auslander is a good example of a track set to bang. Its got a driving Industrial backbone and rowdy baseline yet the two don't gel and the song drifts into a monotone, lifeless drone that chops and churns its way by.

Leave It Alone is about the only song that really has something going for. The rest just gets by on a limb, then Wtff arrives with a turn table break beat jam and the record drops of completely for the remaining few songs. Its a strange record because its loaded with good riffs and interesting elements but none of it fuses and the whole thing is left stiff and stale. Its disappointing but not awful, worth a spin but no more.

Favorite Track: Leave It Alone
Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Annotations Of An Autopsy "World Of Sludge" (2019)


Annotations Of An Autopsy... here is a band Id not thought of in some time! They were once the brief obsession of my friendship group back in the boom era of the emerging Deathcore music scene. It was mostly their utterly vile and misogynist lyrics that would grab attention. The music was equally disgusting, an ugly cesspit of pig squeals, Sludge, Death Metal and Slam that doesn't hold up well over a decade later.

I was initially excited upon seeing news of their return with a short five track EP. For some reason I thought the absense might yield a new matured perspective on their former "brutality". Unfortunately its as if they have been kept on ice, unleashing new music almost ignorant to anything that has happened in Extreme Metal over the last ten years. Even clocking in at under twenty minutes its an utter grind to endure.

This is mostly down to one element, the vocals. The instrumentals are competent in performance, dulled in creativity. Its a typical cramming of guitar chugs, snaky tremolo melodies and slam grooves, recycling the same stomp over and over. They chop up the drum measures to shift the pace and create plenty of alternating bounces and slams. None of the five tracks reach anything significant. Even the obvious "big moments" of the track seem to muster little more than a reiteration of the song so far.

At the musics forefront vocalist Regan throws out some meaty guttural shouts with gritty texture but this is where things slip up. His utterly wretched pig squeals sound like a joke. These squeals resemble a squawking crow being strangled to death. They are high pitched, ridiculous, shrill and irritating. Its hard to take seriously and the utterly valueless and immature lyrics drag it further into the gutter. It really dispels what little atmosphere is being mustered and puts a downer on the whole thing.

Rating: 2/10

Monday, 17 June 2019

My Weekend At Download Festival 2019


Going for both Saturday and Sunday this year I had some miraculous fortune being in the right places at the right time to miss out on the rain. There was no avoiding the mud though! Not a lick of grass insight, the arena was a mud bath but I got through it and had a fantastic time. Once again the festival delivers on a magic I manage to convince myself is going to run out as the years roll and this year was no exception, the headliners really delivered something special. This year I thought I'd right about the highlights, good and bad, despite catching many more acts over the two days!

Power Trip
I saw this band not so long ago opening for Napalm Death in a small club and they blew me away with their 80s Slayer-alike Thrash Metal. It was great to know they could grab the attention of the festival organizers but a main stage slot was unexpected however given what a mighty show they put on it is no surprise. There strong songwriting for a tried and tested formula really matched the crowd and the probably won over a lot of new fans with an explosive show!

Behemoth
It was my first time catching the Devilish legends Behemoth, their music was a strange translation to summer sunny skies on the main stage but impressive costume design and stage makeup made it work. The performance was engaging and tearing through some strong at utterly dark songs they really made quite the impression as a band I need to get more familiar with!

The Hu
 There was no way I was missing the opertunity to see a Mongolian Metal band! Squeezing into a rammed tent the crowd was electrified to see a really unique and almost drone like vibe emerge from the fusion of Metal and native Mongolian instruments. It went by in a flash! I had checked them out before but this live show really helped bridge a gap in their music.

Batushka
Making their way onto my highlights list for all the wrong reasons. Russian Orthodoxy inspired Batushka had me dead excited for their notorious live show, however taking an age to to set up an elaborate stage of era furnishings and ornaments, their slow arrival to the stage became a drag. Going through some sort of slow candle lighting ceremony they took far to long, overplayed their set time and took more than five minutes between the three songs they churned though doing dull rituals of candle lighting and blessing books. It was a sham and they angered a lot of fans with the poor execution of their show. It did not translate to festival restraints.

Die Antwood
 Hear the booming bass from the Tent where Batushka were dampening spirits I was dead excited to catch the quirky South African Rave Rap duo! Unfortunately I only caught the trail end of their set however it was an absolute riot! The sound system was blaring and their energy on the stage was phenomenal. I couldn't help but move. Its really nice to have something break the flow of similar music being played around the festival. Would have loved to have seen more of it, shame about set overrun but these things happen.

Slipknot
 Prior to the show I had been feeling a little hesitant with Joey and now Fenn's departure. It was however a dynamite show from a band who seemed focused on giving us the absolute best. Corey Taylor was pitch perfect and ten years on from one of the greatest shows Id ever seen, the Knot proved they still have it! It was very emotional, strong memories of my social groups bonding over this band in our youth and that feeling of freedom when your inside the song, inside the moment, free of life's burdens. Only a few bands can do that and Slipknot is one of them, with deep cuts like Get This and Scissors it felt truly special.


Cane Hill
 With delays for fans entering the arena Cane Hill has to kick off Sunday to a small crowd however they gave it their all and a being at the front one could get a better appreciation of guitarists unique playing style and use of effects. As a band they have obvious influences from Korn and Nu-Metal however it made clear that they are bringing their own style and it rocked hard!

Alcest
 Ive been waiting a fair few years for my opportunity to catch Alcest and they did not disappoint! Their serine music translated beautifully to the intimacy of the small stage and their enchanting singing was captivating. The sound was impeccable and these songs came to life on the stage! Wonderful set.

Whitechapel
 Ive never gotten that deep into this Deathcore band however of the times I have seen them they have always been killer. Clearly oversold on the smallest stage, a rammed audience squeezed in and despite being at the back, barely able to see the stage the sound was impeccable. Their trio of baritone guitars were crushing and they soared through a brutal set of tracks. Perhaps this is an advantage of listening from next to the sound desk!

Smashing Pumpkins
 They feel somewhat like a recent discovery for me. Its always 90s bands that seem to get to my heart and I would have been thrilled for this show had I not seen them earlier in the year. It seems they are good friends with Amalie Bruun of Myrkur. They brought her out to do a Black Sabbath cover together which has a special atmosphere to it. Their show was reasonable, amazing set design but It feels like they have ambled through the last fifteen years missing out on the opertunity to establish themselves as a headline act. Billy's stage presence is left to be desired between songs but the performances themselves were fantastic.

Slayer
Its farewell to the legendary Slayer from this side of the pond. I would of loved to see the whole show but the beginning was absolute fire and ever over thirty years into it they can still pull of their songs with a manic intensity. Tom sounded fierce and the live show is certainly not the reason they are calling it curtains. There was a huge fan turn out for the legends but I had to leave early to get my spot for Tool.

Tool
They have been my band of choice to "get into" this year. Many, many hours churning through their discography, which seemed so difficult to get at first. Having got through every record I made the drive north listening to Tool and really starting to connect with the music in anticipation. Live music always has this magic and I shouldn't of been surprised to have it unleashed again. At first the show felt a little underwhelming, no cameras on the band and nothing but trippy visuals plastered across the big screens. It didn't take long for me to realize how much the band wanted the show to be about the music. Their flawless executions of dense and difficult music became a beacon of light and all of a sudden I felt that "strangeness" around their music disappear. It made complete sense, I was converted to a die hard fan and blasted nothing but Tool on the late drive home too. An utterly amazing show to end the weekend on.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Windows96 "One Hundred Mornings" (2018)


I've always maintained a key interest in Vapourwave, the Internet's own truly international and border-less music scene. The unfortunate problem is quality. This is a genre plagued by low effort releases, often hinged around pitch shifted and time stretched re-sampling. It makes discovery hard but luckily Ive found this Brazilian musician who operates under the Windows96 pseudonym. They have the theming and aesthetics down and I'm happy to report the music is there too!

One Hundred Mornings gets off to a reasonable start with slightly off kilt drum arrangements and quirky synth tones taking up most of the focus. It builds atmosphere and steadily lures one into its particular vibe, a mesh of nostalgia tones and childish wonder. Its kitsch snippets of obscure cartoon sounds bouncing of the multiple layers of resonant synths has it start with its magic muffled somewhat.

As the song Visions I kicks in, the samples draw back and a lead instrument whirls around, dancing in the winds above its clunky drum groove and blocky baseline. Its here that the record gets into a stride, unleashing inspiring melodies and swelling with emotions. Its wobbly keyboards and murky low fidelity tricks find a warm cohesion where the aesthetic and music really start to compliment one another.

The pivot feels somewhat inspired by 80s Synthpop, the chord arrangements and notations of Bliss seeming almost like a Tears For Fears song re imagined through a new set of sounds. Its a very enjoyable record, warm uplifting mellow moods through the lens of nostalgia play, acting as if it resides in a infatuated past. The off kilt and sample oriented components don't hit home as hard but when the real musical composition comes through it shines bright in these lovely surges of swooning melody.

Favorite Tracks: Visions I, Bliss, Rituals
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Hunt The Dinosaur "Dankosaurus" (2019)


Ive been anticipating this one and boy has it delivered! My recent discovery of this comical Extreme Metal outfit through youtube led me to their reasonable self titled EP. Five years on the group flourish on their promise with a refined approach to the music that is both fun, brutal, ridiculous and absurd. Their sound is a monstrosity in itself, a post-Deathcore Djent hybrid focused on unhinged and unconventional grooves, subverting expectations and further abstracting already outlandish ideas.

Its utterly ridiculous lyricism extends into the music as many Djent riffing styles and Deathcore Breakdowns are blown out of proportion to an amusing degree of delight. Its a well produced album with utterly slamming low end guitar texture and crisp punching drums that rock ear bleeding riffs alongside the mammoth screams and guttural howls. Its ultra slick union signifies a real intent to push these ideas further down the gutter and its fair to say they pull it off with an absolute roaring flair.

Vocalist Hunter Madison's raspy scream raps are an utter delight, totally deranged and unique, he sounds dangerously manic, unleashing throaty raps that hurl themselves at the listener. Its a textural treat of aesthetic and rapid flow but lyrically its a bankrupt self indulgence of excesses expressed through blunt and filthy language that has me thinking he may just be deadly serious at time. The record kicks off holding back the rap aspect and as the songs roll on we get more and more of it.

The instrumentals don't budge from the brutal formula. Sporadic use of screeching guitar noise and jarring electronics keep it flavorful and exciting but Hunter's rhymes seem to come across more and more like a mumble rapper words. Simplistic lyricism and excessive vulgarity, drug abuse and misogyny dominate the songs in the back end. As a comical parody they are amusing but as a serious earnest expression its somewhat foul. Despite that one hiccup based on my personal preference this is a solid debut from a band who are backing attention grabbing ideas with solid music.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 10 June 2019

Arkhtinn "最初の災害" (2018)


Putting an end to their sequential roman numeral releases seems fitting as the French artist Arkhtinn dispels composition issues that often stunted the flow of the last few records. Its quite the feat to create fluid songs at twenty minutes of length and with this release we are treated to two full Metal tracks, the ambient half being ditched which is probably for the best given their mediocrity. The Japanese title translates "First Disaster" of which the two tracks are first and second. Its another plunge into the depths of darkness, hurtling through the nothingness on a roller coaster of intensity.

Once again the production advances with a crisper tone but one that is notably sharp and angular. I never felt like I quite adjusted to it and the muddiness that emerges in the wall of sound. It is however perfectly capable of birthing the cold astral void the music roars from beyond. Its main vocal component is a wretched howling shriek mixed slightly above the over instruments. Its cutting, a little grating, just two things that jerk the ears in an otherwise excellent musical experience. Both songs tend to elongate the process, where VI blitzed through its riffs and arrangements these two tracks stretch them out and pace the progression leading to many satisfying out bursts of conclusion after the intense pummeling. It should be said though this works far better as background music. When giving it your soul focus the cycling of sections can go on for minutes and the intense blast beats and guitar shredding feels like a drone.

That is mostly true of the first song though. On the second I only recall two moments of the Darkspace chug guitars stomping into the fold. It actually feels rather welcome after twenty five minutes of relentless fire. Its this song that has more experimental wonder to it. The glistening astral synths get to peak through a little more and some "evil riff" guitar work reminds me fondly of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia in places as it breaks up the blast beats and give the song some dynamism to its flow. The song has a greater range of peaks and really goes out on a high with its ascending cascading chord progressions in the final quarter. It is really this song along the makes the record special, the first pales in comparison. Can't wait to see whats next!

Favorite Track: 二番
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Radiant Mind & Steve Roach "HelioSphere" (2019)


In need of indulgent ambiences and meditative music I turned to Steve Roach again, who has an large and extensive collection of records under his belt at now 64 years of age. Dreamtime Return had, excuse the pun, returned to my consciousness, setting a spiritual atmosphere for my yoga practice. Looking for a new flavor I picked out this collaboration with Radiant Mind. Eight tracks and sixty four minutes of calm and soothing, gentle streams of sound to evoke peace and reflection. Its all steady and linear, temporal music stripped of event and urgency. All chapters offer different pallets and arrangements of synths and reverberation conjuring safe and warm atmospheres that also feel a fraction of mystery as an astral component blesses the music. One can feel the stars graciously drifting by in the stillness it masters with its layers of yawning, hazy sound drifting in and out of focus, just a grasp away.

The seventh track takes a slight and welcome detour from this construct. Ironically similar to Yagya, who's new Stormur release I recently covered, it has a pulse from start to end, a subdued dub beat gently droning its monotone pulse through the spine of the song. It adds a little pace and movement to the track as a key instrument lingers around the attention it draws, coming in and out of focus like the breath. Like the other songs there is little progression to the sound design yet the beat gives it a sense of presences the others don't have. It stands in contrast but works in the overall run time which is less about a bigger picture and more about minutes in which to loose your thoughts to the persuasive calmness. Its a simple and effective formula executed well enough to reach that space and feeling of inner peace.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Old Tower "Finsterströmung" (2019)


From disappointment to delight, today we have a release Id been anticipating for some time. In the few days since its released Ive binged and enjoyed every moment of the mysterious and esoteric experience. It is the first new project from Old Tower this year and the second of the "grim alchemy trilogy"... Ill admit that made me chuckle for some time. The first chapter was Drachenblut and like it, three dark and meditative tracks are assembled for a short plunge into a conspiratorial loneliness of abandoned hallways and crumbling ruins where mischief lurks beyond the shadows.

There is a clearer sense of voicing than I remember, as the artist moves further away from the core styling of Dungeon Synth. Once again choral synths are woven in with deep reverberations and atmospheric vibrations. In the mix a monk like voice sounds lost in between layers of foggy sound on Saturn's Essence. It has a menacing pace as strikes of drums echoing from the deep create an unsettling presence lurking in the beyond, keeping one on edge. The following title track is my favorite, the construct is similar but a lighter tone dominates as bells and star like synth glisten with a dark magical energy. Given the trilogy name, it is this track I can most envision some musky robed magician hunched over a messy workbench of chemicals and jars of animal parts. Its not a striking image but it would suit the musics pallet.

Moonchamber sees out the short project on the most minimal of tracks. It builds slowly to the mid point where more voicing come into play as the monk returns. They are now cries from the depth lingering on a collapse into the darkness. The ambiguity here plays a fantastic roll in capturing a moment not fully immeresed in darkness and that is what I like most about Old Tower. How the evil in the music isn't overplayed, its used to explore a wider sense of mystery in darkness. This progression more towards Dark Ambient is fantastic and these three new songs are too, can't wait for the final chapter now!

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 7 June 2019

Yagya "Stormur" (2019)


Excitement and exception falls flat on its face as I rush to pick up a record without a pause to hear it first. Yagya has been a frequent "go to" for a particular mood, the steady pacing, ambient energy and dreamy atmospheres are blissful in the right setting, even calming. This time around the formula has changed, a pivot back towards roots in Dub, Techno and IDM music leaves us with a record more alike a Tangerine Dream album than Brian Eno. The opening couple of tracks have the distinctive soft and airy synths, cushioning the monotone beat and slowly melting into a dreamy atmosphere. It takes off where Sleepygirl left but not for long.

With each track the layer of warm and tranquil synths seem to slip out of focus as the underlying drive of Dub beats seem to become the main narrative. With an unhealthy amount of repetition the musics elongated moments seems to ploy around the microscopic details of the beat and its synths that latch closely. Inflection, tone and volume morphs and transmutes with the occasional kick removal offering up the only variety. Its at this point the songs drone on with that Tangerine Dream quality of winding meandering synths. Its dull, the record may possesses degrees of composure but its long strolls through winding beat manipulation suck out any magic it musters in brief moments. A real disappointment, not my cup of tea that is for sure.

Rating: 2/10