Saturday, 12 June 2021

Wampyric Solitude "Lost Ages of Darkness" (2020)

 

As the third of three attempts, this may be the best of "Vampire Synth" so far. In title alone it defines itself. Solitude... not a word that often comes to mind with music, even though it can be so inherent in the quieter arts of Ambient and Meditative music. As is the activity of listening, if not at a party or concert of course. The Curse Act I sounding so reclusive and illusory with devilish piano notes conjuring a cinematic presence of murder or death, now confined to the loneliness of lifelessness. At times this record strays from the mystique of its esoteric minimalism straight into the arms of a despairing solitude. As for its Vampiric half, I definitely get chills that suite a serious entertainment of the nostalgic, blood drinking folk lore myths.

The castle of its cover alone seems perfect. A decrepit Transylvanian castle in ruins... the grainy black and gray image casting the gloomy mood. Being so akin to the Black Metal scene its no surprise to hear snarling groans of grave sadness cry out across a lonely void on its closing track which musters a the most of its instruments as the gentle percussive beat and its rainy synths conjure a feeling quite similar to Noir Jazz. The rest of the record, however, makes its way to this darkly conclusion through the bleak, pale and terribly lonely minimalism its housed in.

The Lost Ages of Darkness aesthetics are so soft and subtle that even in its culminations of brooding synths, the quiet sounds feel as desolate in tandem as in there lonesome, which many singular melodies explore. With The Curse Act II the music pivots to a new kind of terror. Two minutes of dense reverberated bass kicks leads us too spacey, zany synths that wobble with an almost extra terrestrial threat. Is so carefully crafted as to not over emphasize its unnaturalness. Waltz steers us to the Jazz Noir again and the title track experiments with foggy ambiguities before The Last Wampyr charms with a little childlike melody... with a chilling undertone of course.

This record has revealed itself to be deceptively simple, chilling to inhabit and leaves me with a curiosity has to how long its spell will hang over me. So often can Dungeon Synth hinge on its tropes but this record feels deeper than any of that, yet its bare starkness say perhaps not? I think it takes real talent to make music like this strike a deeper nerve and so with this artist I shall persevere through a few more albums. It will be interesting to hear what lies ahead!

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 11 June 2021

Howling Giant "Alteration" (2021)

This four track EP has been somewhat of an obsession lately. Alteration is a sprawling instrumental epic of guitar led melodic grooviness! Its twenty minute duration graces us on a journey of progressive creativity, warm and welcoming as its mammoth guitar sound explores the rumbling depths of Sludge, Stoner and Groove Metal. Passing by psychedelic realms with a touch of Post-Rock scale, its elastication propels us from the crawls of swaying low end power up to the heavens of expansive lead guitar that swells with spacey melodies and colorful gleams of light.

Its twenty minutes breezes by with each of the songs working a deceptive linear direction as its recurring sections get re-imagined on revisiting. Its quite the feast as deep meaty bass lines, subtle chiming synths and dexterous drumming work around the guitars focal energy, livening up the stage and fleshing out this organic musical force. Its solo illuminate like a voice as its notations gush forth with a cadence reminiscent of lyrics being sung. Its not always in this vein but with surges it feels so.

Enemy Of My Anemone, to me, sounds like the telling track. Its opening lead riff and clever weaving of tune and rhythm feel strongly influenced by CKY... possibly? I am speculating and this is why I wrote about Foreign Objects two days back, spinning this one kept me thinking of Miler & Ginsburg's guitar styling. A Howling Giant is no imitation though, their identity feels rather distinct with its organic, warm and sun soaked temperament. Its a very welcoming style of Metal.

One odd criticism I've taken away is the lack of vocals. Often I am fine with instrumental music but something about these arrangements felt as if there was room for another, human, voice to chime in on the gorgeous weaving of colorful melody and swaying groove these numbers sail through. Other than that its a fine little record that sounds wonderful! Especially that deep bass rumble that comes to life when the rhythm riffs transcend up the fret board into lead licks. Its aesthetic is just right.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 10 June 2021

An Old Sad Ghost "Coffin (A Letter For Carmilla)" (2018)

 
After the disappointing Wampyr we move onto the second of three picks from a list of so called "Vampire Synth". I'm please to say An Old Sad Ghost offers much more in its darkly theme and churchy mood but still falls short of the Nosferatu chills I was hoping for. Its a brief nineteen minutes, split into seven roman numeric chapters. They are all choral organ pieces conjuring a slight macabre Gothic charm. It mostly gives a sense of per-enlightenment times, its big foggy organs filling the firelight halls of some weathered cathedral.

Its small selection of organ and airy synth tones are most likely virtual instruments. Its programming shows itself as the "paying" comes with a consistent attack and sustain that offers little in the way of expression through nuance and subtlety. Given some of its arrangements generate simple rhythms with its harsh deadening of repetitive notes, it can be a distraction that an analog performance would of elevated. Its mixing is also a little crass with the instruments routinely rubbing into one another with the mechanical resilience its virtualized reality amplifies.

Flaws aside, Coffin evokes a warm and glowing sense of being sheltered from the grave and despaired. Its aesthetic gloomy, menacing and foreboding yet the majority of melodies performed feel confident, sheltered and warm. Often with this type of music I comment on the "distance from danger" yet here it feels as if all danger is removed entirely from this rather glum and grim temperament. Occasionally its notations peer into something more sinister but its only ever brief.

There is no doubt the music has some bold ideas, resonating with the imagination for ancient realms and cultural mystique. This polishes its apparent flaws. As a lone piece with no vocals, bass or percussion its strengths seem held back. With more love and care these compositions could be truly captivating. Currently they are not, for reasons aforementioned. This record will most likely drift from consciousness however It will hold its spell whenever I return to it. My final thought is the key question, does it inspire the "Vampire Synth" genre name? I think not, but given whats out there, this feels more Vampiric than other Dungeon Synth records that come to mind.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Foreign Objects "Universal Culture Shock" (2004)

 

A current record on rotation has been giving me some serious CKY vibes. More so two thirds of the line-up, Jess Margera and Deron Miller, on this adjacent project Foreign Objects! Its a gem of a record, taking that unique and dynamic sound of Camp Kill Yourself into a Extreme Metal direction with guttural vocals and an aptitude towards the more progressive and technical aspects of instrumentation. Don't be fooled, for all its flash the foundations are built with fantastic song writing and a flair for melody that has its crunchiest of riffs flowing with colors. Its parallel to a handful of metallic genres yet stands triumphantly apart with its warm embrace.

Foreign Objects was actually formed before CKY and with the viral success of the VHS videos and Jackass, it seems the pair decided to revive their ambitions with this sophomore album after Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild. That sound is apparent throughout but more so in its earlier songs. As the album progresses, more Death Metal influences to the likes of Cynic and Atheist end up showing themselves a touch nakedly with sections that lean on some of the tropes like dis-harmonized melodies and meatier guitar riffs. Its all fantastic but the album does start like a rocket.

 The self titled track and Genesis 12A leap from the speakers, the music more colorful, interwoven and going on a fantastic journey of colorful aggression melding its tuneful nature between groove and gusto with Jess wilding out on his drums with an animated performance set to strike all cymbals and toms frequently between the foundations of his patterns. Its wonderfully engaging and Deron's harsh throaty growl shouts have charm but less in the aesthetic and more so the timing and delivery. He sounds impassioned and it makes the songs come to life with his better lines.

I could heap on the praise but not everything is perfect. The albums production is a touch harsh and lacking budget but the music attitude fortunately punches right through its rough edges. As mentioned the album tends to drift to its less creative songs, passing an amazing Disengage The Simulator cover on the way out which fizzles out with the toned down Victory Over Neptune transitioning into a sombre acoustic but underwhelming ending. Then lastly there is Big Boy, its tone and temperament doesn't really fit the bill or carry the same energy as anything before.

At its peak, this albums songs are of a dazzling craft but its a flawed treasure for sure with the front loading. Looking up some details on its release Ive learned it was packaged with a five track demo from 1995. That is making its way to playlist immediately! I'm glad I got around to writing about this one, for any CKY fans reading, you need to hear this! Especially if your fond of more abrasive music.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Wampyr "Wampyr" (2017)

 

This will be the first of three records I will cover on the topic my newest unearthing, Vampire Synth! Whats that? Apparently a subset of the micro-genre Dungeon Synth. Can you imagine my reaction upon stumbling onto a massive list of this so called "vampyric" music. Excitement alright, Ive often yearned for artists to look for new avenues in this easily accessible genre flooded with amateurish attempts like my own Forgotten Conquest. So far we are not off to a good start with this brief EP of three originals and a cover by James McKeown, the man behind the Wampyr moniker.

These lonely, sombre songs lean heavily on their Casio synth keys and low fidelity aesthetics, sounding fumbled and off the mark. Meandering and directionless whatever solemn piano, gaudy choir synth or cheesy tone takes focus the music can't escape its design. The brash and awkward percussive strikes on the opening track seem like a failed rouse to arouse mystique. As it passes the yearning atmospheric synths that arise usher in a new phase seemingly unconnected. With barely more than two instruments chiming in at any one time, its possible minimalist ideas fall flat in forging anything meaningful out of the subdued setting it occupies.

I'm being harsh here, individually some moments do conjure that ancient dungeon feeling but its all to brief and interspersed by the swiftly transitioning music. It doesn't create a sense of theme bigger than any one moment that's passing by. To pile on the critique a little more, where is the vampirism? I picked these records at random, unsure of what to expect, hoping for a new nostalgia, gothic and cruel, drenched in blood, exciting the imagination for mythic legends of Counts and Countesses, dwelling in darkness and conspiring nefarious plans for their victims. This had none of that and thus my disappointment. Even removing my colored expectations I hear little distinction.

Rating: 2/10

Monday, 7 June 2021

Greta Van Fleet "The Battle At Garden’s Gate" (2021)

The young Zeppelin starlets return with a sophomore effort I initially found underwhelming. Was this a repeat of the fumbled Anthem Of The Peaceful Army debut? Trying to find my way into the music I decided to put it on shuffle with along with the dynamite EPs Black Smoke Rising & From The Fires. They showed so much promise at that early stage of their career. Switching back and forth with this new set of twelve songs, it starts to make much more sense. Those original songs were wild, full of youthful energy and big riffs. Now, the group seem to look beyond the obvious.

The Battle At Garden’s Gate seems like an attempt to mature beyond the flash and dazzle. Thus it can seem somewhat dull at times. Greta Van Fleet's Problem is still the footsteps of acts gone before that they tread. Much of the music lacks originality, creating an undercurrent of uncertainty. Ive tried to let go of that tho. What I've found are the subtler crafts, cohesive song writing to focus on theme and topicality with out being steered to strongly by guitar and stage antics. Its best songs creep up on you, brooding, steadily building but not always seeking a "big moment" to conclude.

Though with a handful of songs that climax does arrive through ambitious guitar solos. Aiming for that classic timeless lead magic but awkwardly residing in the confines of ideas that were once the cutting edge. They do find their space to soar tho. To let go of the more critical ear, it can really feel quite special. The variety of cuts keeps the record flowing, moving between different intensities and focuses, everyone gets a moment to make a song memorable, mostly the Kiszka brothers with singer Joshua having a field day on some of these songs, going above and beyond to flex his mighty voice. Its an absolute pleasure on a song like Stardust Chords.

The record sounds fantastic, very lived in and warm, so much so I've barely considered the fidelity until now. Drummer Daniel Wagner carries the songs competently with groove for the backbone and occasionally flairs up with unleashed freedom as he goes ham on his kit. Its wonderful, like a progressive drum solo as he goes the rounds on the drums. Would certainly like to hear a little more from him.

I'm lukewarm on this record but mostly for the lack of originality but letting go of critique I've had nothing short of a blast with The Battle At Garden’s Gate. Now the initial shock of a band so stunningly reviving an old sound has worn off, its up to them to write memorable songs and I think they've genuinely done that here with a handful of them. As whole, its a case of time will tell but I can't complain as so far Its been great fun.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Chevelle "Niratias" (2021)

 
I'm glad I'd taken the time to discover Tool before encountering a record like this. Chevelle have won me over with their thoughtfully tempered and artistically angered take on Rock and Alternative Metal. It was on the second listen that the resemblance to Tool suddenly clicked and its been unshakable since then. Singer Pete Loeffler emulates Maynard at every turn, both in style, pitch and delivery. I feel that I can only refer to his obvious influence as the distinction. His multi-instrumentalist brother Sam does much of the same with the song writing, arrangements and riff ideas with an occasional big riff more akin to perhaps Nu Metal in delivery. Even deviations from the norm on instrumental interludes with ghostly pianos have an echo of similarity. Either I'm right on the nose with this or infantile to the web of influence Tool have undoubtedly cast on bands like Chevelle.

Similarities aside, this album has been a blast. Niratias runs an expressive line of crafted writing, steering clear of leaning to hard on tropes and arrives at its conclusions with the grace of lavish instrumentation that gets everything involved in intervals with space for individuals to shine in the gaps between. So often do the guitars drop back for the bass guitar to rumble. Lead guitars get to sweetly slide into focus with elongated stretches of atmospheric melody and around it all the drums weave together a narrative. Its theme is supposedly rooted in the talks of the times when it comes to a commercial era of space flight and the now popular philosophical discussion of simulation theory. Its most potent lyrics to me tho, where the impassioned cries towards misinformation and science skepticism which too have risen to prominence during the pandemic.

At a meaty fifty minutes, Niratias offers up some fantastic vibes, balancing aggression and artistry with something I can only describe as the "festival feel". Many of these songs feel set for the summer stage to be shared with thousands of fans, delivering those big riffs and crunches after grueling through the gradual build ups and hold over sections that keeps the music in lane. In the past I think its the sort of music I'd gloss over but I am happy to say that ignorance is gone! For all the familiarity this has been an exciting listening experience that feels best as a whole, having found it hard to pick favorites from the track listing. Peach however... is a peach of a song! Oh too easy but yes this one has an exception bite to it as so quietly builds to its blunt force guitar throwing down thumping slabs of low end noise. Pete absolutely makes this song pop with his fiery singing, crying out woes of foreboding limb removal!

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 4 June 2021

Public Enemy "What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down" (2020)

 

Maybe I should of passed on this one... but I couldn't help myself right? The legendary Public Enemy collaborating with Ice-T, Cypress Hill, Run-DMC, The Beastie Boys, Nas and George Clinton? Well it is to good to be true, as one might suspect there heyday is long behind them! What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down is loosely themed to the pandemic and global issues, asking questions of the audience and our reliance on modern infrastructure but It does little to elevate the music. Where this record falters isn't so much its topicality but the execution of outdated musical ideas.

 These instrumentals, handled by C-Doc not DJ Lord, fire up the old formula but lack the sharpness or urgency. Sadly it comes off as exactly what it is, a bunch of older guys who haven't update their ideas, spinning the same tricks with less excitement than ever. Many of the beats house a mediocrity of samples that layer up noisily without the bite and grit of classic Public Enemy attitude. To give it some credit, there is a lot of creativity shaping up the songs to be varied and fleshed out with shake ups between the main loops. This goes out the window on a handful of tracks as out of tune Rock guitars, both rhythm and lead, frequent the record with this tone deaf presence of half baked 80s aethetics rattling off under the raps and drums. Its not flattering.

Chuck D and most his guest are as sharp as ever, his voice sounding aged but the energy is there. Sadly he falls into the trappings of artists from his era, getting hung up on the past with many passing remarks and even a whole song rattling of a list of Hip Hop traditions lost to time. There is little wrong with this expression but it adds to the lack of fresh ideas on offer. Its merits are ironically the resurrection of old songs with varying success. Fight The Power Remix 2020 has some bite as Nas steps on the mic with rhymes sharp as ever. Its home to some of the records best verses but also the worst as YG's flow just doesn't match the energy here. All in all its a tolerable listen but mostly disappointing for failing precisely where you'd guess they might.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Arcturus "Constellation" (1993)

Writing has been a lot of fun recently but more so has the listening! Discovering the foggy gloom and doom of My Angel and reliving the unique astral wonders of Aspera Hiems Symfonia again, my recent dive into Symphonic Black Metal has potentially led me onto an Arcturus journey but alas we will stop here for now.

Writing on the bands aforementioned debut, I remarked how dingy and overly symphonic this short four track EP was. It certainly is riddled with fidelity issues, inaudible bass and overpowering keys. My curiosity couldn't help itself tho. Giving this one some time and with swiftly adjusted ears I am astonished again by a band who seem to always lavish astonishment upon me. These songs are essentially identical. Where its keys once had a creaky yet powerful subtly, they are now front and center with dank and humid tones that relish in their own oddities. On some level it plays down the extremity of Black Metal, amplifying the symphonic magic at the heart of Arcturus, illuminating the majesty of their night sky inspired theatrics.

And check the date! The music is a mighty force of cosmic wonder, wedging itself in a scene yet to explode or even blossom. How delightfully strange these defined ideas are. Cosmic, majestic, curiously carnival and a little jovial. Its beautiful eccentricity emanating from keyboardist Sverd's fingers. I knew this element was the spark but it seems all to powerful and obvious here, the compositions are so inspired, creative and otherworldly with its astral icy gleam illuminating the darkly music. Each of these numbers are mighty journeys, adventures of the night full of twists and turns.

The intolerance of my youth had me gloss over and dismiss these lower fidelity releases... such a shame... but now I see an opportunity, to re-visit these demo tapes and early releases of my most favored bands that I once ignored. I hope to unearth more gems like this one.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 31 May 2021

Carpe Tenebrum "Mirrored Hate Painting" (1999)

 

My most treasured record in existence is Spiritual Black Dimensions by Dimmu Borgir and perhaps It would of fared better not have written on it as my first blog post here. My aged words seems quite inadequate given how years of writing has evolved my articulation and expression. One day, when inspired, I will write of it again. The reason I mention this, is because I could use much of that language here, you see Mirrored Hate Painting is essentially a counterpart to SBD. Carpe Tenebrum is the side project of lead guitarist Astennu who illuminated SBD with a darkly rapturous presence heard here once again.

He is joined by Nagash, also of Dimmu Borgir who emulates Shagrath's vocal style wonderfully. A little loose and fragrant at times, he captures the throaty guttural growl in uncanny resemblance. The music too emulates much of the compositional principals too, mixing dark, aggressive guitars with throttling drums, classical dizzying pianos and a lavish helping of bold synth tones, going through all the stark theatrical dynamics. Released the same year, it gives an impression of left over material from their work with Dimmu. The lead guitar solos being the one carbon copy element that rouses equal emotions as they plunder into the night with a soaring sense of epic.

It leaves a question to ponder, does this highlight the influence of Astennu on his band mates? Or did he bring the ideas and leftovers to this effort. I'm sure its a question that will remain unanswered as the records either side of this sophomore project have quite the contrasts in identity. Its own, however, is tarnished somewhat but a less refined production style that could of done with a little more care. The synths are dulled by quietness more often than not. As are the sprawling piano melodies jump in with flashes of jovial color. They find themselves smothered, however if you know what to expect, you'll hear it somewhere in the mix as the sections of music roll out with mirrored ideas from SBD.

 And mirrored they are, the tropes play out with all the same techniques, half time beats often giving rise to atmospheric synths and the guitar pinch squeal whammy bar howling plunging us into blast beats and momentous darkness. Mirrored Hate Painting does come with one distinctive tarnish, the inclusion of bizarre audio clippings, down pitched and reverberated in the tackiest of manors, something akin to b-rate 70s horror movies. An English woman talks of satanic coercion, sacrifices and the murder of infants... My only thought are perhaps that the audio is not fictional and that is supposed to hold some merit to the records theme? Because if not, it sounds pretty trashy and runs in contrast to the music the few times it crops up.

I've enjoyed this one immensely, however it cannot compare to my most treasured record. Only in flashes does it show the same level of brilliance. Dimmu forged some fantastic music that felt more purposeful in composition as its lyrics and lead guitars would channel a song to meaningful climaxes. So far I hear the same ideas but not the glue to give the songs a sense of start and end. Perhaps I need more time with it, which It shall get a lot of in the coming months and maybe I will learn more of its magics but for now I am just stoked on finding such an adjacent record.

 Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Gojira "Fortitude" (2021)

 

Although delayed by the Pandemic, French Metal outfit Gojria's seventh record, Fortitude, marks an increasing gap between records with a five year wait from the toned down, atmosphere driven Magma. As these musicians mature, so does the music and the time waited feels worthwhile as the Duplantier brothers and their band-mates hone in on a wholesome, naturalist and cultured tone. Embellishing the heavy sway of their rhythmic guitars, the space between instruments groans with earthly pains as the common themes of environmental and indigenous concerns manifest it the texture, painting its modern Metal cliches with a humanitarian identity.

Gojira's craft for groovy, swaying chugga riffs remains firmly intact with plenty of timely moments to deliver the momentous, head banging riffs with pinch harmonics, slides and all manor of guitar noise between. New Found is a keen example, housing a couple of the albums most infectious rhythmic grooves. The difference is the space between, often the guitars work in tandem, high and low, delivering meaty chords and melodic lines that weave the earthly texture between them. The bass guitar too plays a wonderful roll in this too. Its thick warm presence being rather dramatic and creative at times with fret dives, slides and high notes that resonate wonderfully.

Up front on vocals, Joe Duplantier gives a complimenting measured performance, having the reach for gritty growls, demonic shots and a range the crosses over to the spirited and effeminate. He draws out this indigenous native spirit with frays into wordless cries of melody that weep with the spirit of the land. Equally the anger of destruction and human pains burgeons in its sway to the dark and gruesome screams Metal music adorns. Most these songs sway between to the two as so do the instruments, intensifying grooves and opening up to emotional atmospheres between.

There is little I can flaw but I can't say there were many grabbing moments of awe. This felt like balancing act to pull us along its dreary and bleak hurt without becoming too engulfed by attention capturing grooves and heavy metal distractions. Its an album that gently cruises by, holding presence and brooding in its own shadow. Despite being rather downtrodden in mood its a joyous listen as that earthly spirit permeates so well. The production helped achieve this but I must say some of tracks feel a little dulled and muddy with the music carrying weight through reasonable fidelity. Perhaps it is part of the charm given those earthly tones I have commented on, for some reason it just strikes me as missing a sharpness. Either way its a solid record.

 Rating: 7/10

Monday, 24 May 2021

Arcturus "Aspera Hiems Symfonia" (1996)

 

 The unhinged rattle of a rapturous drumming, A lone distortion guitar with a dark breeze of melody, the aura of nightly synths glistening. Its a muddy mess we are initially thrown into, which then swiftly plunges into blast beats and throaty howling screams before opening up its triumphant gleam as astral organ synths and warm patrolling baselines bear its melodic majesty with might. As the music sways, the darkness is doubled down on, driving rapid chugs on the low end of the guitar and nose diving with the snare led blast. As it rears towards the darkness, so does it expand the crevasses of starlit light. They are birthed into progressive passageways of rhythmic creativity and instrumental craft imbued by subtle violin strokes and blossomed with a stunning guitar solo before the wretched howls of Garm and a bleak melodic lead reels in the song to a festive, carnival conclusion of mischief.

This is To Thou Who Dwellest In The Night, the opening track too one of my most deified Symphonic Black Metal records. Its the niche of a genre that really spoke to me in my youth. This being that one weird and sloppily produced record that I couldn't resist. It lured me in with its spellbound tone over and over again before I gave into its persuasion. Its flaws are beauty and the musical craft is a wondrous moment of genius somewhat confined to the initial cliches of this emerging sound. Arcturus would go on to fully explore their unique identity unchained but at this moments, its true birth, the grasp of Black Metal is simply a blessing to steer it to a fantastical darkness of unending imagination inspired by the mysterious night sky above.

The brilliance of drummer and living legend Hellhammer is all over this record. Although a toned down performance by his technical prowess, the rattle and roar of his thunderous drumming houses the strong expression through melody in aggression mainly backed up by the reverberated cries into the night by Garm. He also has a stunning clean voice which enters the fray timely to bring enchantment to its sways into the more expansive side of their music with deep belows and high notes alike. Its the guitar leads and synths that embellish the identity, offering up matured arrangements with melodic sways and subtle grooves more so than its occasional power chord thrashings. This is thoughtful music, reaching at the harder to express ideas with a range of fantastical synth aesthetics to back it up.

Aspera Hiems Symfonia's texture is often cold, harsh and bleak with the keys injecting this linage of majesty through its often clanky involvement. The production is a mess! Instruments bleed and clash but through this, the keyboard's classic Casio and Korg tones are blemished, shining through cracks in the seams to make themselves known. It has just enough presence to be known in subtlety and with each listen one can revere in the clarity that comes of repetition. To this day I feel like I always learn a little more of its nature with each listen. As the album art intends, they often remind me of the Northen Lights illuminating the vast endless forests of Norwegian darkness the genre's counterparts are so inspired by. These musicians noticed the stars above.

Interestingly, this record is preceded by Constellation, an EP with four of these eight songs. It gets unbalanced by its overuse of synth however with this outing they nailed a concept you could of completely missed given its initial execution. Its the newer songs that tend to be the finer affairs with a more dynamic sense of where the songs should travel. The older songs have some stiffly stitched together sections with dramatic shifts in tone and dynamics, often repetitious in structure. The attempted sound design with thunder strikes and other rumblings at the end of Wintry Grey is a fumble but the music is too glorious for it to tarnish the spell.

Arcturus have been a deeply wondrous band I've adored for so long and have been blessed to see them live. Its hard to pick a favorite, each of their albums so different and interesting. They would go on to be better known for their Avant-Guard styling but even here at the cast mold of new ideas they were a force of their own, standing alongside the cold bitter darkness of their counterparts, yet being an entirely different beast fueled by the wonder of the cosmos, both in name and spirit. My recent brush with My Angel was a keen reminder as to how special this debut album of theirs really is. Twenty five years on and it still holds up.

Rating: 10/10

Friday, 21 May 2021

Cane Hill "Krewe De La Mort, Vol. 1" (2021)

 

With news of this three track EP, I was hoping these Nu Metal revivalists would remain astray from their primary sound. The alternate styling of their Alice In Chain's inspired Americano Kill The Sun was an absolute delight. Sadly for this listener, Krewe De La Mort is a full pelt pummeling of modern Nu Metal and Djent aggression, fashioned with a loose grip that goes full throttle on a high octane production style. Maddening, paranoid and viscous, the music roars like a lashing out, firing back at inflicted pains and misery. The mood is consistently frustrated, angry and inert on the topic. Shouting full tilt, delivering meaty growls and lines like "God is the enemy" over and over, these songs never let the foot of the gas. Its like a run away train.

 The whole affair is lavished with the sprinklings of Industrial whirls and hisses, soft textural synths to busy up the massive slabs of dense guitars chugging away, moving with might. On occasion a break for more musicality opens up with glimmers of melody. Otherwise its present ambition is wholly heavy aggression and mania. Its choppy riffs and bursts of pace liven things up but I mostly found myself not vibeing with the bleak and downtrodden spiral of anger these fiery songs spew forth. Its somewhat adjacent to Slipknot and others of that era, with its modern twist but the whole dance felt a little to sterile for me. Loved the solo on God Is The Enemy though, a lively moment of color in an otherwise chromatic listening experience.

Rating: 3/10

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Kauan "Ice Fleet" (2021)


 Underwhelmed by the soft and withdrawn, forever wandering Kaiho, the Estonian outfit Kauan return again. Having forever earned my interested with Somi Nai, I had to check this out. Its an album that, reflectively, has some charm attributed to the excitement of a fresh sound on these ears. I'm pleased to say Ice Fleet steers in a feistier direction again with its balance of cold, sombre beauty and lengthy swells of aggressive gusto finding an equilibrium to coheres us gently through the ebb and flow as a path is forged. Onward we trek, through the vast scenic wonder of deeply atmospheric, emotional and engrossing music to captivate. They have found their stride again here.

Part Post-Rock or Post-Metal, fostered by airy synths to brood a smooth and welcoming denseness, Kauan lunge into the epic with a touch of Doom Metal pacing with slow and crushing beats. They give momentum to scale on these linear journeys across the vast bewildering wilderness, or possibly oceans as its title and album art suggests a naval inspiration. Tremolo guitars cry out in reverb as the gravitas pulls in a single direction. Slow and simple melodies, often singular, break through the walls of sound as its direction converges on beautiful notations to bring gleams of light to its otherwise un-intuitively baron landscapes.

The record plays as one, growing into its more ambitious metallic beast early on with dramatic symphonic lulls between its eruptions of rugged guitar riffage that misses on Maanpako and does a devilish dance on Raivo when accompanied by howling, lurching screams as it dips into the Black Metal realm. The pull between dark and light is stunning and with its final numbers the music drifts to a calming, Etheral piece with airy, wordless vocals wandering in like a lost spirit. Its quite the contrast from the sailing frenzy in moments past but that is much of the magic of this record, how it holds opposing forces in a special place. The pacing is just right, everything broods and crawls to conclusion, holding us in its cold temporal majesty.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Plini "Impulse Voices Remix" (2021)


Uncommon but more so unexpected, Australian musician Plini has collaborated with three producers to bring us an intriguing remix EP of crossovers with the Electronic music scene sound. Often a recipe for disaster, on this outing it seems the two styles pull in the same direction, with guitars and synths of the original music being lifted into the bass and percussive designs of Downtempo, chilled out, laid back Electronic music. I must remark, my memories of these Metal adjacent remixes are somewhat scared by the early naughties attempts of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park with full remix albums. Over the years many other collaborations have come by with varying success but are yet to make footing as a common feature.

In this scenario the vibes match and make for a fine indulgence with the breezy moods and easy nature of the intersection. These are easy, summery songs, hard not to like. Despite that, I find it difficult to give this project merit beyond chemistry as its energy rides almost exclusively of the melodies of Plini. Dayce brings a powerful thumping, steady Dance beat with 90s hi-hats and airy reverberations. The bold bass and rhythmic glitchy grooves add a contribution but not one of remark. The following tracks play it even safer, limited to drums as the main creative contribution. Production techniques with fade ins, outs and frequency cut fades make transitional designs sparkle but again, the musics charm is all with the original material. Ultimately, these songs end up feeling purposeless in the shadow their source and fail to bring anything beyond a shift in tone.

Rating: 3/10