Thursday, 23 March 2017

Wartime "Fast Food For Thought" (1990)


This obscure "side project" EP is the brainchild of bassist Andrew Weiss, who invites his fellow band mate Henry Rollins to lay down the vocals in his typical style. The duo are both from the Rollins Band however Wartime is a different beast, Rollins' unshakable style remains grounded over Weiss' instrumentals that take an Industrial, Funk laden, bass driven approach. Some of the core grooves can be heard in similarity to the pairs main ambition however "Fast Food For Thought" comes off as an unapologetic, noisy hash of idea's with a backbone of grooving funk.

Its aesthetic is of the age, dainty factory setting percussive tracks lined with bongo hits set the tempo for Weiss' monstrous distorted bass tones, dripping in texture with warping gurgles and snarling oscillations. It makes a racket, multiple baselines, some popped and slapped, a sprinkling of acoustic guitar licks and the occasional synth, samples make an overwhelming roaring backdrop for the man with the big mouth to direction your attention to the themes that inspired the food for thought.

Two years before "The End Of Silence" we hear Rollins defining his loud mouthed shouted vocal style at its inception. His tone, delivery and intense presence is a great match for the noisy instrumentals. The lyrical themes and words themselves are a little soft and obvious in terms of craft of rhyme. The topics and points made are certainly worth your time but the poetry is stitched together with obvious, simplistic links that have Rollins sounding like a 90s parody rapper in some respects, despite the words having a measure of weight to them.

The whole thing plays like a singular track with no break in tone, consistency or texture. Its very upfront, immediate and riddled with "dated" sounds but that's part of the charm of digging out this forgotten relic from one of my favorite bands. In a way it feels like some great ideas were born here, with Rollins' vocal style evolving and Weiss' burgeoning riffs amping the duo for their greatest collaboration when returning to Rollins Band in 92. Well worth your time if your a fan.

Favorite Tracks: Right To Life, The Whole Truth
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Puppy "Vol II" (2016)


If a dose of 90s Alternative revival is your cup of tea then English rockers Puppy and there "Vol II" EP may just be for you, however to label them as a revival band would be a disservice. Puppy's style, sound, aesthetic and tone is uncannily alike to many acts of that era but theirs is a fresh and faithful artistic expression that nestles neatly between many names while still feeling like its own master. It kicks off with the most out of turn track "Entombed". Its slow and steady textural two note groove has echos of Groove Metal but its soft, welcoming distortion tone and singing style makes it very comparable to one of Metals brightest bands, Ghost.

The rest of the record embarks on a less metallic voyage, taking an emotional narrative that in many moments resonates like The Smashing Pumpkins. These are steady, easy going songs with simplicity in mind, a tight arrangement of riffs that flex between expansive chords and simple rock steady grooves. Acoustics intersect and with a lighter distortion the band effortlessly transition between subtle intensities, making for great craft as the songs flow soothingly. Its the singer who pulls much of the tone together, with a weaker, soft and gentle voice he comes with a meekness that exudes honesty in the emotions conveyed, making the instrumentals feeling complete.

Ending with a number devoid of percussion, a sombre acoustic guitar is intersected by soft harmonizing distortion guitar leads. It occurs to me that the short record, twenty minutes, starts in one place, ending in another. Kicking off with groovy metallic energy and transforming to quite a calm and soothing affair. Its all terrific, not much to flaw other than its short run time. The production is solid and everything feels cohesive on this five track release. This band has a promising future it would seem.

Favorite Songs: Entombed, Warm
Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 18 March 2017

C418 "Dief" (2017)


German electronic producer Daniel Rosenfield, AKA C418, composer of the Minecraft "Alpha" & "Beta" soundtracks, brings us a comparatively short thirty two minute EP under the name of "Dief". Unsurprisingly its a far more coherent listen in comparison to last years "2 Years Of Failure". Mustering his inspiration a collection of calm, soothing and spacious songs emerge with a deeper layer of ambience than expected, based on his distinct identifiable style of modern electronic fused with lush pianos and strings.

"Work Life Imbalance" might be the records most lively track, feeling as if it could fit into many of his previous works with typically sweet and luscious pianos chiming over the driving, shuffling percussive track. From this point, every other track can be seen heard in a Downtempo setting. Gentle yet strident drums keep otherwise lucid melodic notations in motion as lead instruments drift into the layers of ambient synths with a typical dose of lush reverb.

"Blank Cubicle" steers from the path with more prominent, textural saw synths chirping melodies as Daniel brings his voice into the backdrop in an opaque manor as he straddles the line of attention, sinking behind other instruments with quietness. The opening track is my favorite, classic string sections build up a cinematic atmosphere the blossoms into a rich, dense experience as deep, underwater synths slowly engulf the opening strings. The final track revisits a moment of this wonder to tie the seven tracks together, but between them nothing too remarkable occurs beyond establishing a placid and calming tone to indulge with.

Favorite Track: Texture Prayers
Rating: 5/10

Friday, 17 March 2017

Tim Shiel "Induction" (2017)


Back with another set of soothing, calm electronic ambience songs, Australian producer Tim Shiel brings us a short, simplistic and gentle journey through eight tracks that clock in at just under thirty minutes. Opening with the records theme we encounter one of two moments where shuffling, indifferent percussion shakes itself along a path with a glitched out persona, very much like his previous works "Duet". Sound design oddities and ambiguous noises intersect the slow and steady lead melodies to give off a strangely comforting dystopian vibe. In "Undone 2" the beat comes back with a stronger presence, a steady kick clap arrangement creates a more straight forward song with a rich and deep ambience almost ready to engulf the beat.

Aside this duo, six tracks of gleaming cloud like ambience radiate with organic contractions of dense synths that slowly coming in and out of focus as they surround each other in a state of serene tranquil. These seemingly minimal and short compositions provide depth with tiny micro details buried under the wall of soothing sound, lone notes and abstract voice can be heard with great attention. On "Gernika" these ambiguous noises rise to the surface for an indulging cross roads between the style displayed on the percussive tracks and the deep resonating ambience.

On some songs Tim steers these the compositions towards greatness, the mood shifts and something emerges from one setting that can transform the music. Due to the short nature of these songs that level of progression never amounts to a second phase. With exception the essentially two part nature of "Undone 1" and "Undone 2" makes a rewarding experience of this transformation as the song climaxes in its journey through a darkening mood. With no short comings or failings "Induction" feels like an inspired, thought out project that meets its intention. I could of only asked for more, twenty eight minutes leaves me wishing it had gone further!

Favorite Tracks: Undone 1, Undone 2, Third
Rating 7/10

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Austra "Olympia" (2013)


Following up on the Canadian trio's darker leaning debut "Feel It Break", we arrive two years later at "Olympia", a measured refinement of style that steers the ship to a slightly brighter, broader appeal, while still retaining the core of their identity. Its a fitting follow up, no leaps, tricks or wild cards in store, just another collection of short songs where the synths lighten up in tone and dazzle with chirpier, friendly melodies.

Even though the instrumentals are rich with layers of complimenting melodies and a memorable tunes, it is singer Stelmanis who once again becomes the focal point of the emotional narrative, crowning the songs with her infectious hooks that hit with magnitude as a sublime energy and character resonates through her empowering vibrato. She carries on where the last record left off and bar a few sharper ideas its a predictable performance, one that's unsurprisingly indulgent as the melodies flow around her swooning vocal lines.

The biggest progression felt is the instrumentals, tuned for a brighter ear the record feels a little looser and organic in reflection of "Feel It Break". The drums especially, including bongo arrangements and less electronic kits. With a lighter pallet of sounds the band often resonate short Neoclassical melodies over pulsating dance baselines. Soft strings, flutes and plucked strings illuminate these cohesive moments of indifferent styles that otherwise sound odd on paper. Its very much a more obvious extension of what came before it.

"Olympia" is a strong record, however the bands approach to songwriting limits what feels like an obvious potential for them to do much grander music. Short, verse, chorus song structures and a lack of theatrical progression leave the songs contained within the walls of repetition that doesn't expand on the magic of Stelmanis' voice. The last album had a stand out track "The Beast" where convention gave way to inspiration and that is what I was hoping for more of. Even where potential feels disappointing this record is fantastic and very enjoyable, one I'll return to often.

Favorite Tracks: Painful Likes, Home, Reconcile
Rating; 7/10

Monday, 13 March 2017

Baroness "Purple" (2015)


American Metal band Baroness caught my attention at the Grammy's with a nomination for best Metal record. Ive heard them a few times before due to critical acclaim but never got into their breed of sound, however this time I figured I would give the album a fair shot. Its the groups fourth full length and only singer John Baizley survives from the original lineup. Their sound hinges on a Rock core with Metal leanings that at times conjures fiery storming riffs, very similar to Mastodon's distinct style. In its counterpart the record is loaded with great catchy hooks, sing along vocal lines and an undercurrent for melody that surfaces in the climactic moments and interludes like "Fugue". Classic Rock with a hard tone, dynamism in its riffing and the subtle use of keyboards to compliment lead melodies and bury layers of unearthed sound under the riff roar of the energetic guitars.

The records production and mix says a lot about the looseness of their performance style. In the calmer moments everything is tight, fluent and well measured but when the music fires up, the distortion guitars and tone of the music gets a little sludgy, loose and organic. The production puts a lot of emphasis on this with peaking guitars and drums that can be heard with every tom roll as the distortion draws a complimentary energy from the peaking compression. Mostly it compliments the instruments tone but when the drums get lively it can become a bit tiresome to endure.

With matching tone and direction the songs here mix the lines between more tradition Rock ideas and metallic aggression, creatively I must say but the best of them come from moments of melodic cohesion where the guitars and vocals meet in the same direction which is something that doesn't happen all too often. Baizley's shout isn't the most charming but it has character, soul and a burden that is truly sung and felt. When the pieces full in place Baroness make terrific hooks and choruses but not every song could hit that mark. The guitars also deserve merit here for the expansiveness to make repetition interesting in delivery and playing where the dynamics are in a state of motion. It mMakes for a very humanistic listen with a passionate voice singing over a loose and noisy Rock entourage.

Favorite Tracks: Kerosene, Fugue, Desperation Burns
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Repulsion "Horrified" (1986)


Ive been meaning to get around to Michigan based Repulsion's debut and only record for the longest time. When researching Grindcore and Goregrind I often come across "Horrified", cited as a classic record in the genre's early days which despite being recorded in 86 wasn't actually released for another three years. Taking oneself back to that year, Metallica's Definitive "Master Of Puppets" had come out and the first few Death Metal tapes were circulating the states. Napalm Death has started to beef up their sound with blast beats during line up changes and the birth of a new sound was upon us. Although it wouldn't of assaulted ears for a few more years to come, Its quite possibly the "heaviest" record you could find of the time. That's why I had to check it out sooner or later.

Despite being an "old" record its abrasive demeanor took me a few listens to adjust. The hideously ear piercing ride cymbal making its mark on a loose and chaotic aesthetic where low, dingy guitars grind away at linear, one dimensional riffs with temperate grooves as the drums come crashing down around them with mosh steady beats. Vocalist Scott Carlson's screams are not much of a charm. Its a rougher, harsher form of Thrash Metal scream that has the fast and frantic delivery of Grindcore lyrics but yet to evolve into the deep growl so many other bands would take up. The base guitar most likely a mirror of the guitars but sounds somewhat non existent in a mix that constantly peaks the mid to mid-upper ranges.

In there moments, the blast beats crash in with full intensity, the ride cymbal smothering the tone, overloading the accompanying guitar riffs. The band have the measure to break it up with slower tempos, punk and thrash sections that turn the dial from eleven to ten. The riffs are simplistic, easy to follow and employ some techniques and styles that would become commonplace, the grinding of low strings and using snaky note progressions. On the lead guitar front Thrash like solos seem to crash into the mix at regular intervals with a fast and frenetic unleashing of notes that spiral around the listener before dropping out as quick as they came in.

At thirty minutes its a great length where a rather abrasive collection of short, frontal songs don't take themselves to seriously and outstay their welcome. Initially I was impressed by its age but dubious I would really enjoy this record given the length of stylistic evolution that laid in front of it. A few listens warmed me up to the sound but it was hard to make more than a retrospective impact. It was however worth my time, a coy enjoyment and an interesting piece of music poised slightly ahead of its time despite the delay in being released to the rest of the scene.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Emmure "Look At Yourself" (2017)


Its been a while since I last checked in with Emmure, often labeled as Deathcore they are mostly characterized by their obvious Nu Metal influences and a tonal "over the top" approach to the aesthetics of their sound. I personally never brought into them much beyond a handful of songs but talk of a return to form and complete lineup change, bar front man Frankie Palmeri, had my curiosity sparked. Three years since the bands last full length this new lineup has held everything that made this band what they are intact, while as always trying to turn the dial up another notch.

With a spew of short songs that barely grace the three minute mark, Emmure go full throttle through a barrage of dirty, disgusting noise eccentric riffs that bombard the listener with a constant assault of short elasticated grooves, pummeling hard on the Djent tone, accommodated by brutal drums and Frankie's fiery screams that fill the ranges as they peak the microphone for an intensive effect.

None of these songs have a sense of grandeur, theme or purpose. Instead they stride from one idea to the next, throwing just about every arrangement of two note beat down riffs at the mercy of whatever noise they can manipulate from the guitars and electronics. Sometimes these take shape like the creepy, eerie melodies reminiscent of Korn, mostly they sound unique as dystopian airy synths grace the space in the silence of the guitars which themselves make a considerable effort to throw in bends, harmonics and other oddities in the mix.

Aesthetically it comes off well, a hard hitting mix of throttling eccentricity with groove and attitude to match. On the flip side the short nature of the music and lack of coherence beyond a riff fest left the songs feeling lackluster. The constant thundering of overly loud guitar tones and heavily compressed production with no direction in sight took the wind out the aesthetics sails for me. Despite many particularly interesting ideas and oddities of noise they fall flat on a lack of direction and amount to nothing interesting beyond one or two listens.

Favorite Tracks: Russian Hotel Aftermath, Turtle In A Hare Machine
Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Daft Punk "Random Access Memories" (2013)


Over three years ago the French duo released their fourth and classiest record to date and somehow my utter excitement to listen to It got buried by other distractions, I have no excuses. A month or so ago It dawned on me that I forgot of its existence, a shameful crime... Daft Punk need no introduction but if your unfamiliar then a little history is due, they are a pair of Electronic musicians who emerged from the House scene, contributed massively to the mainstream success and sound of modern electronic music while sealing themselves in an air of mystery at the same time, given their robot avatars. With four records in twenty years and one soundtrack the two have a lot of integrity to put the music at the foremost of their art, rarely touring and always striving the reach new heights with every ambition.

RAM is the moment where the two unchain themselves of their electronic origins and delve deeply into their disco, funk, soul and 70s music roots. Slick acoustic guitar licks, rock steady, grooving baselines and classy, subtle drumming all set a solid tone. Its gorgeous, slick, smooth and easy on the ears, all made possible by a collection of prestigious session musicians who revive the music of times gone by without a sense a nostalgia, a quite remarkable feat not commonly encountered. It plays out like a refined Disco of the future, finely tuned and polished to sparkle.

It comes full circle as the music's electronic aspect goes through a completely organic process of becoming the humanistic aspect as the lush instrumentals set a harmonious tone for bursts of measured synthesizers to find their moments between the ensemble of vintage instrumentation, captured together in a masterful production. Where a guest vocalist isn't present the pairs auto-tuned, electrified voices take command and bridge the connection. With an analytic mind its as if a case of reverse role has taken place, the voice electronic rather than the music but with a keen ear one can here the littering of subtle keys and murmuring synth lines between the traditional music.

All of this is essentially stated on "Giorgio By Moroder" through Italian producer Giorgio who, with a brilliant quote, captures much of the essence of whats at work on RAM. For all the praise I could lavish it with, RAM is a record of tone, mood and charisma. With a run time of seventy four minutes it does little to shake up its pace and energy and with consistency finds itself drifting out of my attention in the final stretch. By the time "Contact" rolls around with its ambitious noise abuse I'm about done with things and awaiting its conclusion. A brilliant output by the duo, a vision well and truly executed but perhaps lacking a little in variety and experimentation where its consistency runs dry.

Favorite Tracks: Give Life Back To Music, Loose Yourself To Dance, Get Lucky, Doin'it Right
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Suicide Silence "Suicide Silence" (2017)


American Deathcore kings Suicide Silence tragically lost their iconic frontman Mitch Lurker back in 2012, his distinct screams and lively stage persona was a defining aspect of the bands identity. The choice to continue on without him would pave for difficult times as the impossible task of replacing Mitch would unsurprisingly cause mixed reactions among fans. 2014's "You Can't Stop Me" featured new vocalist Eddie Hermida and was no stylistic departure but for an old fan of Deathcore it was quite a forgettable record.

Using the self titled card, the band have set out to redefine their sound, much to the disappointment of a quite frankly ludicrous reaction from their "fans". A petition to stop the band releasing this record actually gained traction and signatures within the music community, something Ive never heard of before and is quiet insulting to the band who should never be told what to do with their art. That must be even harder to taste when it comes from within your own fan base. Metal music has always taken quite the beating from the outside world but this is unprecedented.

History and controversy aside this new direction is far from awful but not flattering of these musicians. If I could summarize, Its as if I'm listening to a demo that's got a lot of potential, the elements, ideas and inspiration is all there but it comes together a little flat. So what sort of direction have they taken? Nu-Metal, an instant nose up for some people but its a little misleading, the band have aimed for the more artistic side, were bands like Korn and Slipknot where creating atmospheres of frustration and despair in the creepy moments riddled between bombastic dropped tuning riffs.

Suicide Silence have stripped back that frontal, riff eccentric approach to their sound and although It can still be heard a little in tone, the metallic riffs play second fiddle to noisy dissonance and reverb buried chord picking that has cagey drums and Eddie's unhinged singing forming a fiery emotional atmosphere. It sets the stage for off note, loose and unrestricted ideas to emerge in a constantly tumbling of deranged ideas. Many of which are quite imaginative and of their own identity, although others are distinctly like bands of that bygone era.

Unfortunately these ideas come together with a lack of structure or direction. The bands age would suggest they grew up in the Nu Metal generation and it is great to see they have picked out the lesser explored ideas of that era to go forward with but turning that influence into good songs has not come to fruition. Nothing is bad or awful, in fact there are a lot of intricate, unusual, interesting sounds at work and Eddie's performances are very emotional and grabbing. It just doesn't come together well. No song here creates something powerful as a whole. Even its best riffs fall flat into songs that don't progress with a direction to make anything remarkable of its contents.

Rating: 4/10