Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Sigh "Heir To Despair" (2018)


Many years on from the epic of Imaginary Sonicscape, Japanese band Sigh still can't seem to find a footing and direction that is entirely concrete. This year around they echo some hall marks of their classic record with morphed voices and unusual fusions of cultural roots but the collision of ideas under a Black Metal flag is all to haphazard. The album puts its foot in mouth with the second track, a possible tribute that plays like a blatant Iron Maiden rip off in its intro and outro. Although the track is mostly composed of furious riffing and blazing guitars, its stiff jump to the Ace's High riff just sets an odd tone for a record that lacks focus.

Its a guitar oriented record, the fretwork constantly winding with grooves, pinch harmonics and chugs all with a distinct distortion tone. The musics motion generally pivots on its energy, which Mirai Kawashima electrifies with his shrill, snarly and raspy shouts. Not always a welcoming presences, his narrow range is often stretched, sounding thin and weak. Its aggressive elements play up against native sounds, the Taishogoto, flute, piccolo, other woodwind instruments chime in meekly. Its even got a few unorthodox percussive sounds for a Metal band. They all seem to arrive out of turn, a complimenting addition often overpowered by the drums and guitars. The opening track however finds a balance, giving much light to its unusual side.

Three part track Heresy revives their electronic experimental ideas from the aforementioned Imaginary Sonicscape but not to much avail. It opens with its best and goes off on a tangent of unfinished ideas and noise oddities. The last song, clocking in over ten minutes, has great flow and scale but once again hails back to their classic, resurrecting a section from Requiem Nostalgia that should of just stayed there. Its been enjoyable to hear Sigh's sound again but there is little direction or focus here, just another hash of ideas that relys on their tropes and unique fusion of sounds.

Rating: 4/10
Favorite Tracks: Aletheia, Heir To Despair

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Tool "Ænima" (1996)


Three years on from their burly debut Undertow, American outfit Tool make dynamic strides forward. In scale, atmosphere and dynamism Ænima goes further inwards and beyond their horizons, helping us to all seventy eight minutes available to CD format of that time. These lengthy songs takes their time, meandering in a madness that lays beyond. After its first three songs, each track is broken up with some form of interlude, a few of which are rather fascinating. So far I have found Tool to be a strange band to decipher, its a slow process but that strangeness is now starting to seem like whats to be embraced. Its all so obvious now, as the analytic mind turn on, the signs light up.

More so than before do these songs unfold like abstract emotional journeys. Playing with loud-quiet dynamics, the group craft songs with a keen ear for atmospheres which can stir the mood and dip toes into psychedelic realms before they so often erupt with groove and aggression. Once again its Keenan's shouts and groans that seem to resonate most with these outbursts as his words reach their pinnacle at the crux of the musical momentum. It is perhaps the brittle and stale, buzzing guitar tone that withdraws what should be obvious. Riffs crafted with precision and cohesion that's just unlike other bands of the time... or anything Ive heard. They just have an edge in that department that feels blunted by a grisly and chromatic production style.

 When the temperament is calmer, with an often unsettling demeanor, these guitar bends do resonate sweetly but that is just a personal preference. The drums play straight in heavy sections but conjure its share of atmosphere, guiding the direction exquisitely. Keenan gives a lot of emotional clout to the music, his frustrations and musings delineates much of the upheaval and unrest the compositions hold in their peering to the darkness that lurks in the shadows of every song. Even in its boldest of scenic passings does the mood not feel far from a strange madness, even the unleashing of roaring intensity does not go all the way in to that which stirs beyond.

This darkly bizarre side of this record lays itself bare on a handful of its many interlude tracks. Experiments in noise from the electric zaps and interstellar storms of Ions, to a babies needing cries, drowned out by alien buzzing and flickering voices on Cesaro Summability. Die Eier Von Satan stands stark apart from anything else at work as a commanding, domineering German voice recites a recipe for baking cookies as if at a Nuremberg rally. Its a fine piece of paranoid Martial Industial but feels more like a cheap trick more so than any true insight into historical prejudices, the song is of course fantastically string, as well as a haunting reminder of the perils of man.

The record comes to a close with a snippet of the then recently deceased Bill Hicks to tie noisy synth experiments into a lengthy epic closer of psychedelic exploration that ends with the alarming cries of "prying open my third eye" over and over. The bands ability to hold and progress a moment really shines and ends the record on one hell of a bang. I still feel like there is deeper to go with this record but I can firmly see the excellence and praise music fans heap on this band is showing. It will take longer for me but I am enjoying the process and eagerly awaiting Lateralus.

Favorite Tracks: Stinkfist, H, Forty Six & 2, Jimmy, Die Eier Von Satan, Third Eye
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Bring Me The Horizon "Amo" (2019)


Ive been highly anticipating Bring Me The Horizon's return since their monumental That's The Spirit, a modern day Hybrid Theory. Its unsurprising to hear the band further move into the Pop realm, the continual direction shift is fruitful and exciting. Inviting larger synth elements of EDM and Electropop in to subtly tune out their distortion guitars in places, they manage to retain an intensity and heaviness associated with the band. Its the songwriting that triumphs once again as infectious catchy hooks take hold center stage in much of the music. Oli is a huge component to its achievement, taking his voice to many harmonious places with many infectious lyrics. Amo is a logical move forward but perhaps not quite at the same grade.

BMTH certainly have a finger on the pulse of current music and an uncanny ability to evolve their sound and infuse these fresh Electronic and Pop ideas. The transition is utterly seamless and its broadened pallet of sounds gives a depth to the experience as key songs stick out with a defining character. Title track Amo and Mother Tounge pulls in 90s Dance pianos and punchy strings for a Pop epics that spans the decades. Mantra, Wonderful Life and Sugar Honey Ice & Tea, bring in sonic seven string guitar groves in the choruses offset by lighter overdrives between. Interlude pieces Fresh Bruises and Ouch dive into some flavored Glitch Hop passageways and only Nihilist Blues sounds behind the curb with a synth sound reminiscent of 009 Sound System.

Its mostly dense and detailed music, cramming many instruments and complimenting electronic tones into the available space, scaling its richness with the ebb and flow of the music which graces between its fluffy, light pop and crunching grooves, both between songs and within them too. Its A dynamic record with a depth of variety and detail for the ears but with many listens the edge is taken off its less focused and atmospheric leaning compositions that slow the stream. Amo is ultimately a great transition for the group, a strong strive forward but moving from one peak to another they loose a little in the quantity of killer tunes. That's The Spirit was a riot from start to end and Amo drifts of on differen't avenues, intensities and styles that breaks up its magic for periods. The variety is great but not each approach is triumphed.

Favorite Tracks: Mantra, Sugar Honey Ice & Tea
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 8 February 2019

Warpaint "Warpaint" (2014)


It took not but a few songs to be overcome with the feeling of adoration. I knew that this record would be enjoyed immensely and serve as a "go too" for a mood alteration, much like a Fever Ray or Feel It Break. Now that I make those comparisons I realize how much Dream and Art Pop vibes are on display. Initially I felt Post-Punk moods from the warm pulsing baselines that patrol and measured drum patterns. Those moments arise in due time but a lot of the record goes into a luscious Ethereal tangent. Either way its stirring up my favorite ingredients in the musical pot.

Warpaint are a four piece outfit from Los Angeles who I had not encountered before a recommendation for this self titled record, which is their second. Its a scenic collection of tracks with calm, soothing indulgences of the dreamy and slightly psychedelic variety that shuffle into bursts of hurried and pushed temperaments that create a slight tension and unease, mainly enforced by pulsing, filling baselines and drums with a sharp edge to cut through. The contrast does much for the records flow as it mostly musters its way through different measures of a similar medium.

With everyone pitching in vocals, the music is constantly graced by soft effeminate singing, layered and harmonious. Both are complimentary and crucial too the dreamy persuasions the music sways through. Its key melodies are often bare but illusive, drifting into the wash of sounds and occasionaly jumping up front to great effect like at the beginning of Biggy. With attentive ears one can dress down the foggy, reverberated sounds and hear quite a keen and straight forward arrangements of looping melodies that may have not been as charming without this merging setting.

Although I have really enjoyed the record, it is mostly its tone, mood and setting that I adore, a sign of becoming more at home with these Dream Pop and Ethereal styles. Its charm is more so with my want for this sound. It is undoubtedly a strong, consistent record but all its songs are suspended between good and great, never quite leaping off the page so to speak. It has many fond, engrossing passageways but none that quite peak the senses. Either way I have enjoyed it and will seek out more!

Favorite Tracks: Love Is To Die, Biggy, Disco
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Cane Hill "Kill The Sun" (2019)


The year is off to a fantastic start as we follow up on Puppy's The Goat with an alarmingly different and brilliant EP from the Deathcore and Nu Metal inspired Cane Hill. A change in direction? Or a one off? Either way there is no doubting the exuberant experience that awaits as the band bring out Americana tones and influences to fuse traditional song writing with modern electronic aesthetics for emotionally charged sound that stands mightily tall. Only a single song musters distortion guitar for a brief period, bar the enigmatic use of lead guitars. This total shift in style lands the rockers in an strange place, echoing the glory of the 90s Alternative music scene, while pacing forward with an engulfing dreamy overtone.

Serine acoustic guitars with a country tang find themselves plucking smooth licks accompanied by slow, electronic, reverb soaked percussive lines. Its indulgent, degrees of synthesized details wage in the distant spaces. Save Me gets a beautiful inclusion of pianos alongside the acoustic foray. It is singer Elijah Witt who illuminates the already gleaming instrumentals with a performance to roll back the years and give reminiscence to many great singers of that era. Acid Rain in particular has strong Layne Staley vibe, the lyrics too as they dive into drug reliance. It is no disservice, his singing is charming, inviting and resonating with emotions, a peak on the summit.

Another fond aspect of the music its its swaying into briefly esoteric and Ethereal vibes that its steady and measured drum loops build structure for. The use of compounding reverbs and subtle synths organically weave in between traditional components with a fulfilling chemistry. The last track gets particularly into these experiments with a lively drum performance leading the music into darkly, ambiguous electronic madness. It closes the record as the sound rolls and rumbles into a cacophony of crazy. Its intense and that intensity Metal heads have is found elsewhere in climatic moments that take the gentle tunes and raise the tension with drums and guitar leads chiming in to expand the depth.

I can't flaw a thing with this project other than wondering why this is just six tracks? As a full album I believe it could contend for accolades and a place in the hearts of music fans for years to come. It really is striking just how natural and matured this sound is for them. It might be a side project but could easily be a main focus for them. I'm aware of many bands making heavy music but not so many with an edge like this! I hope I get to see this live at some time, I imagine it will be magic!

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Future "Future" (2017)


This post may be brief since I never intended on covering this record. I simply have to comment on what a quintessential example of Trap this is, for both the good and the bad. Future is an Atlanta rapper, once part of the Dungeon Family collective associated with southern legends Outkast. I've heard him mentioned with the roots and origins of the now massively popular Trap sound of Rap music. This album is the first of his Ive heard, at first mistaking a track for the Migos. It banged hard tho, for all that is formulaic, routine and factory about the music, through it the hypnotic inducing vibes resonate. In one mood its illuminating and in another can be utterly tedious.

Its seventeen tracks have nothing between them that elevates the formula at work. Its a production line to churn out tracks with all the hallmarks of the trendy sound, tight shuffling Trap beats with all the typical hi hat tones and snaps. The deep bass hits bang under an assembly of instruments playing short melodies on loop. They conjure a mood for Future to Mumble Rap his way to heaven with the common flows and quirks like "skeet skeet" and other goofy noises between the lines. His voice and back up tracks become another layer of sound, the inflections and auto tune constantly swaying. His verses a blur of recycled rhymes that require attention to decipher.

When focusing on those lyrics little of interest bar a reference to Southern legend Master P arose to me. Much of the content is materialistic and embodying the worst stereotypes. At times excessive use of tropes makes one wonder how much of this record is self aware? Some of the skits are utterly hilarious and for the most part this record bangs and rumbles the Trap vibes but as said above it becomes easily dissect-able when you've had enough of the groove. Future does sneak some great hooks in there but its the rhythm that wins me over as his words are just too slurred. Its a love hate record but I don't take it that seriously. If I'm in the mood for mumbling and trap beats it absolutely bangs with crazy dark and esoteric vibes.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 1 February 2019

Lil Peep "Come Over When You’re Sober Pt. 2" (2018)


I was very keen to get into this record after enjoying Pt. 1. Ive grown rather fond of Lil Peep and his "Emo Rap". He reminds me fondly of youthful attitudes, his angle of expression is an inevitability of obvious influences converging in a modern era of connectivity. From what I can tell, this record was assembled posthumously. With lots of unfinished material left behind, producers Smokeasac and IIVI put together another album of the same tone, feeling and theme however its twice in length with thirteen cuts.

Both producers worked with him on the first project however this one is a notably sharper product. The song structures are rooted in a popular format, the beats are tidy and everything feels well formulated. Its another collection of shuffling trap percussive arrangements and emotive, melancholic guitars to create stiring, dark, introspective atmospheres. The temperament is very much an extension of the first record, tightly tuned with no artistic progression given the situation. Part two is a fitting title.

Unsurprisingly Lil Peep is again a lonely and troubled figure on this record. His plain language shapes up with sharper poetry in some of the hooks. His lyrics are mostly direct, flavored by profanity and fueled by his pains, giving a intimate window into his life at times. Each song has its seasoning and his approach to the memorable Life Is Beautiful as sadly entrenched with sarcasm. Its dark, depressing but the expression is wonderful as his bitter sweet is birthed into musical art.

The whole project flows with a very steady consistency that does let any favorites leap out. The last few tracks always seem to leap out at me though. The darkly, esoteric strummed guitar tune in the backdrop reminds me fondly of the sort of acoustic break you might hear on a Metal record. In fact the guitars are a continual source of pleasure. Great record, notably more "pop" and loses out on the impact of the first album but ends on a very high note with its best numbers.

Favorite Tracks: White Girl, Falling Down, Sunlight On Your Skin
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Puppy "The Goat" (2019)


Could it be that this new year starts with its best release? If you needed something to sweep you off your feet then The Goat is it. I'd been keenly awaiting English trio Puppy's debut album after adoring their EP Vol II. Id also heard a few of these new songs live at Download Festival and other shows. Now with the music put to wax I hope a spark is lit for them, its become increasingly harder for small acts in the shrinking world of rock music to get noticed. Even with an utterly fantastic debut record like this it may not be enough but this album is a success of its own making.

With an ear for Alternative Rock moods, the stature of Classic Rock licks and momentous sways of Groove Metal's simple bombastic grooves, Puppy electrify through their brilliant guitar work. It requires no exaggeration through dense distortions or cheap thrills. With a sublime vocal presence the album rolls out like a perpetual riff fest that will tug on your emotions and give you a soar neck. The setting is ripe and fond, a keen production that brings the trio together with a crisp crunchy flavor illuminated by harmonious layered vocals that frequently culminate together.

Opening with a Nu Metal syncopated groove to roll back the years, album opener Black Holes gets the record rolling as an example of the dynamism heard throughout. Swaying between crunchy stomping riffs and joyous, emotive chord arrangements the arsenal of riffs lead into a beautiful, earnest singing as it does over and over through the twelve songs. It never tires! This record has been on repeat since its release five days ago and I'm drowning in my adoration for the magic moods it conjures.

As the album progress it feels like the more varied cuts stack up in the second half. A different vocalist on I Feel An Evil, the emergence of a blast beat and a couple of heavier drum patterns keep the records momentum swinging after the timeless sonic grooves of Entombed from Vol II goes by. It holds some of the heaviest riffs and a couple of guitar leads too. It makes for two excellent halves of a whole.

The Goat is never dramatic, self-indulged or too serious. Its continuously fun, uplifting and light hearted yet its music comes from a genuine source of expression. The continual unleashing of riffs will have you writing off lists of bands, riffs and fond similarities, mostly from the 90s decade. As a band they wear their influences loud and proud yet have a dynamite chemistry to express themselves with an originality that can only be known as Puppy. The punch of Metal, the class of Rock, the emotions of Alternative Rock and even a little Grunge ferocity in moments, they have it all.

After a couple of spins a more current, and now obvious parallel, revealed itself. Singer Howard has beautiful vocal range with a tone not far from Papa Emeritus of Ghost at times. Once I made that link tracks like Poor Me sounded uncannily alike in a handful of instances, that and the darkly interpretation of religion in their artwort. There is something similar at work in these bands reinventing the old and its wonderful.

I cannot get over how good this record is. If I had anything to be critical of it would be the formula of the songs. Puppy have such a riveting presence and arsenal of riffs it almost feels as if the music is pegged back from spreading its wings and exploring progressive tangents. The band stick with straight forward structures, three to four minute song lengths and it serves them well but my taste would delight in this group daring and experimenting however its their first record and I shouldn't get ahead of myself, this promising young outfit have well and truly delivered with The Goat.

Favorite Tracks: Entombed, Bathe In Blood, I Feel An Evil, Demons
Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Daughters "You Wont Get What You Want" (2018)


This record record requires a patient listener. Its gloomy, gaunt and desolate persona leaves little room between the dread and imminent doom it poses. You Wont Get What You Want is the American Noise Rock bands fourth album. Its a theater of darkness, a journey into fear and paranoia that drags you down with it. With little in the way of melody or uplift, bombast or groove, one may ask what is the appeal? Where other music may use darkness as its gloss, Daughters find their way straight to the core with unforgiving sounds of mental torment that do not use the common cheap tricks.

A logical comparison would be Swans, the godfathers to this repent-less style of atmospheric music. And that is the key word, atmosphere. As the motions become ingrained the overall feeling of this record emerges with a touch of class. Bold bass lines, meaty industrious drum patterns and the desperate cries of singer Marshall over the front act like the musical framework for an array of maddening sound to assault. Its these tense and eerie siren like sounds that play like alarm bells in the mind of a deranged individual that carve the vision of a harrowing within.

Initially I found the music uncomfortable, invasive and daunting but that is precisely its purpose. Many of the cuts have this unsettling spiraling sequence of notes played through peaked and distorted environments that play into the smothering atmosphere. It actually takes about twelve minutes or so for the music to give some respite as a gleaming melody bursts into life on Satan In The Wait. It has a mirage like quality as it dissipates behind these sirens of dread wailing like all in closing in on you. Other parts have varying degrees of intensity but the whole thing plays as one experience.

Its a theatrical trip, that concludes with many of its recurring sounds amassing into a cacophony of madness on its closer Guest House. Initially tricky to find your way in, its the sort of record that requires the right mood but once the door creeks ajar it doesn't take long for it to burst open. I like to get through records and its time for me to move forward but this is another album I'm convinced every listen would make me love it more. Its journey into dark side of the mind is engulfing and savage, unforgiving, a wild ride that's worth your time if your into the power of doom and gloom.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 25 January 2019

Sons Of Kemet "Your Queen Is A Reptile" (2018)


This past month Ive been enjoying the sounds of British quartet Sons Of Kemet from our capital city London. This record, their third, is a busy Jazz scenario of unsettled landscapes in flow, occasionally smooth but mostly agitated, engulfed by worldly sounds and vibes that surface their identity. Its cover may be a link to a tribal heritage, something I don't quite hear in the music directly. For all its obvious cultural influences most of the music feels like the madness of a city whirling around an individual.

The ceaseless drums shape up every living moment with lively, energetic pacing that constantly bursts with frantic fills and moments of disorientation that always fall back on the rhythm. Armed with a deep, soft and brown restless Tuba tone, it pumps and plods away with binary pacing that leaves gaps for the Clarinet and Saxophone to fill. On tracks like Angela Davis it becomes quite fast, clustered and maddening as the intensities build with little respite. It is always the Sax that seems to find a human narrative in the atmosphere, sounding rooted as its jam rises above.

These songs drive and evolve like jam sessions, starting with a certain intensity and temperament that moves from one degree to another other the five to seven minutes they last. Occasional obvious grooves emerge but mostly its a bustling jive of instruments jabbing their voice into the fray to be heard. On its smoother cuts the toned down nature lets the lead Sax have a flow of melody but otherwise these notes swing rapidly between instruments. The calmer demeanor is always preferable.

The different degrees and flavors between songs will have you plucking favorites but the album makes a flash with two songs. On Marrie Phipps Clark and Doreen Lawrence a London Caribbean accent brings some social political commentary through recited poetry that gives focus to the instruments. These parts strips the music of its sometime monotonous tone and opens up to its other dimension, the song titles, all of which are names of female social-political figures. Ive enjoyed this record quite a lot but a smoother degree of Jazz music is more to my liking.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Tool "Undertow" (1993)


Still in the phase of getting to grips with a bands sound, Undertow, the debut full length record of American Rock band Tool, has revealed some magics of which I am growing fond of. Bringing one song from their demo 72826, they already sound like a ripening group with that early 90s Alternative scene sound brimming. On this record the songs take a measured step forward, increasing complexity and finding strengths. Singer Maynard performs with an earnest vulnerability in his singing, extending his range upwards, feeling more involved with his lyrics as his wording comes with surges of aggression when he shouts and emotive inflections in softer sections.

The instrumentals behind him show an intelligence as intensities and atmospheres shift with a unique energy that feels like the core appeal of Tool. Guitar rifts meander with a steady pacing that has many of the songs refraining obvious aggression and letting it brood in the tracks tone, leading one unsuspectingly into big bursts of energy. The album really gets going with Bottom. The song disperses its build up for a scenic mid section of slow, sleepy drums, hypnotic guitars and a wonderfully intense reciting of poetry by the one and only Henry Rollins. After this recital the track explodes into life and tense riffs shift into a prowling pinch harmonic groove that gets me every time.

The distinctions of the following tracks are talking points of there own. The dynamism and cohesion is fiery, each instrument finds its measure of involvement that varies, setting stage for Maynard to wail his pains away. Its here that the musical structures start to find complexity led by vision as the unraveling of guitar licks ques up with a rotating arsenal of grooves and aggression. They flirt with odd time signatures, pull of the odd extra beat and title track Undertow exemplifies this exquisitely as its rotation of riffs dismantles itself in a whirl of choppy guitar thrashing that starts shuffling the momentum off beat and evolves the music into a mammoth groove.

I am still digesting this record, soaking it in, basking in its ambience. Much of the charm is still mysterious but the spark is there and on a song like Flood it is all laid rather bare. They build a dark, grisly, brooding setting out of chunks of tribal drum striking and reverberated voices drifting in and out of focus behind dizzying guitars. Their vision is stunning. It gets a little grimmer on the closer as the band make an unforgiving mockery of religion, pairing a preacher and his crowd with the baas of sheep. Its another brooding song and its in these surges of atmosphere that I am led onto the magic of their music. I'm sure ill grow fonder with more exposure.

Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Intolerance, Bottom, Undertow, Flood