Saturday, 18 May 2019

Little Simz "Grey Area" (2019)

Every year I aim to find fresh artists, new releases and so far just a measly thirteen records. Despite me failing to get in a discovery groove, it has yielded some fantastic albums. The Goat, Woodland Rites, Empath & Kill The Sun, all contenders for top lists. Now to throw in another contender in the mix, Grey Area blew me away with just the first listen alone. My ritualistic listening has since convinced me Little Simz is a talent to behold and this is my first encounter. Its her third full length and she certainly sounds experienced on the mic. With a light, firm and steady flow, soft, flat toned voicing and sparkling lyrical creativity, I am reminded of one the greats, Rakim, in a roundabout way. Simz style stands on its own, a plain faced, spoken word calmness with an urban London charm ready to slip into slick rhyming grooves and swift flows as your lured in by her calmness. Its gorgeous and has some of the best rhymes Ive heard in sometime! "I'm a boss in a fudging dress!"

Her technical proficiency wont take long to perk your ears but whats equally earnest and engrossing is the topicality and self reflection. With her words she locks you in to situations, trains of thoughts and introspection with a vivid intensity that manifests in witty, expressive and cultural claps of rhyme that rock and rattle when she gets into a flow. She comes across as a genuine character with sincerity and authenticity in abundance. Some of these songs open a door into her life as an artist, struggling and working hard to succeed while dealing with life's stresses. Its not on an every track basis but just about each song has a pull. A little braggadocio and chest pumping comes into play on the albums slickest song Venom. Its on the flip side and her boisterous style is marvelous, flows swell with sharp, smart and damn right mean lyricism, its venomous. Ok that pun was just plain awful! XD

You'd be no fool to see how talented she is but behind the words, these instrumentals pulled together are fresh, fun, classy and right on point for setting the tone. It kicks of from Offense with an Indie feeling executed with a Jazz Rock flair. The beats are stripped back, the instruments have a live feel, high fidelity and its not until the third song that a more traditional Jazz Hop vibe. Its peaked with beautiful singing from Cleo Sol. The production is utterly sweet, Grey Area is a short, compact and tight record that churns through its ten tracks with a variety of defined vibes that all sound purposeful. The chemistry is fire, I still jet through its thirty five minutes feeling flabbergasted. This is a example case of quality over quantity. There isn't a moment wasted on this superb record, I'm still engrossed within it but had to write!

Favorite Tracks: Boss, Selfish, Venom, Therapy
Rating: 9/10

Friday, 17 May 2019

Alice In Chains "Dirt" (1992)

Dirt is one heck of an iconic record. It kicks of with a frightening scream as an eruption of tempered guitar chugging kicks off their most famous song, Them Bones. It jumps straight into gear, a mastery of atonal riffing as the chilling lyrics about ending up as a big old pile of them bones rock the chorus with a morbid honesty. The grungy dark metallic tone is set and Staley will go on to haunt us with some despairing lyricism and chilling performances on this record. Released later in the same year as Sap, the Seattle grunge giants Alice In Chains return with more Metal inflection and a leaner iteration of their unique identity established on their debut Facelift.

After a lightning start the album rolls into a slick run of songs. Tight guitar grooves stitch together beautiful eruptions of Staley's infectious singing. He soars above with the albums best hooks in its opening numbers. He is illuminating but on inspection a lot of darkness emanates from his harrowing words. Getting past the aggressive riffing of Them Bones and Dam That River we start to slip into moodier atmospheres, culminating with the frankly depressing Down In A Hole. It is a beautifully sad and hopeless song. Sickman offers more wounded lyrical fragility as some choppy metallic riffing shuffles its way in and out of an eclectic song. Its defeatist, the "what's the difference ill die" lyric so disheartening given his demise. Its a theme throughout.

Just when you think it can't get much more interesting the album pivots to anthems as Rooster and Junkhead both play with the mastery of tingling build ups that erupt with iconic choruses. "Here comes the rooster!" and "Whats my drug of choice? Well what have you got?", still gives me goosebumps all these years later. I especially like the guitar solo on the later, a simple complimenting melody to peak the song. Its a classic lead you always find yourself singing along too. With title track Dirt more gut wrenching lyrics and electrifying music is bestowed up the listener. Jerry Cantrell has an absolute arsenal of riffing ideas that keep everything fresh and interesting from start to end as Staley drags us to the depths of his self loathing and despair.

Either side of the Black Sabbath Ironman skit track Ironglad, we have a two tracks you might say are a mediocre records gems. Even as songs you might put at the end of your favorite list they still deploy interesting and unique musical ideas to illuminate them in the presence of so many magnificent tracks. Angry Chair takes a darkened shadowy atmosphere and chops it up, shifting the music between different tones. The album keeps its intensity throughout and end on a soaring high with Would? It again just shows an amazing chemistry within these musicians and Staley once again steals the show with a gift to make is haunted words somehow catchy and infectious. Its monumental, an of the moment album that stands the test of time, bringing together the best of Grunge and Metal and making it their own.

Rating: 10/10

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Green Lung "Woodland Rites" (2019)

An unexpected pounce of musical might caught us off guard. Walking into a small London club to watch Puppy, we were captured by an immediately gratifying sound. Fellow English band Green Lung and their brew of Doom, Stoner, Psychedelic and Heavy Metal rocked the club. It was a performance of thunderous riff led groves, electric melodies and soaring vocals that had me buy this debut record after the show. It was worth every penny, however to my surprise the studio recordings are even more magical than the live show. Despite it engulfing my interest, the live show could perhaps do with some tightening as the record is far more ingrained in its own style.

With a helping of witchcraft and the occult, Green Lung offer up a esoteric theme to their sound which serves as icing on the cake, a fun gloss of topicality not to be taken too seriously. Its a mysterious front for the core of brilliant guitar work that marches forth with riffing intent. The rhythm guitar delivers a slew of extended grooves that spider around the fret board, sometimes into the upper reaches, merging with melody. The lead guitar has that in abundance and so often do the two work in tandem to deliver infectious hooks and steer the music into its progressive passageways of sequential riff jams and rising guitar solos. They also makes occasional use of a church organ synth. It rises like an ominous fog from the swamp. It greatly compliments the tone but is rarely deployed, would have been nice to hear more.

This fantastic poise of re-imagined music reminds me of Ghost. They seem to have brought about an emergence of bands who can spin new angles on fusions of old ideas. Much like Puppy have their influences yet feel entirely unique, one can draw parallels to Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and other Heavy Metal bands yet it doesn't sound like a rip. Now that I think about it, their vocalist is similar to Ozzy Osbourne with that dense nasal strain. I would of said the singing here were good enough but despite not feeling over the moon about them, a lot of the lyrics have gotten wedged in my mind and I do like the way he fits into the musics flow, his voice soaring up like a beacon from the cesspit of sludging guitar groove. Great record, it has a string of stunning songs in its opening stretch that I adore, may have to grab their EP too!

Favorite Tracks: Woodland Rites, Let The Devil In, The Ritual Tree, Templar Dawn
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Tool "10,000 Days" (2006)

The time has come to draw the Tool journey to a close, however this wont last long as a thirteen year gap between albums will end with another record later this year! With 10,000 Days I have have taken the most time as once again the words to describe this music often alludes me. It has however been the easiest record to get into with many hallmarks of their sound now etched in my mind. The one most distinctive is the cyclical rhythm guitar work that needles in timing oriented jabs of chords and palm muted chugging. On paper it could almost play like a Djent record akin to Meshuggah but Tool take a typically artsy approach with their plastic and narrow guitar tone. One can then relish more so in the winding patterns without the crushing intensity.

The guitars temperament lets dense atmospheres brood as its habitual chugging becomes a current to flow with. Although its polyrhythms and time signature play is clear in this department, much of the bass, drums and second guitar too play into this mentality with the more common constructs dabbling with subtle shifts and oddities. Its a firm backbone for a stage of expressive, emotive and freeing tangents to emerge from, not only does Keenan rise from this foundation but both the lead guitar and even bass get involved in brewing these swells of musical delight. Danny Carey too will dazzle with his ambidextrous playing. It feels like a light can be shun on him at any moment within the record and something interesting will be taking place at his kit.

The records pacing is something of contention. After a steady opening fifteen minutes of chug and churn riffing and swells of expression, the music shifts for the next seventeen with two slow burns. The title track itself builds to an brief out poor of energy that is short lived and after The Pot it feels like the record never gets locked into a groove. Lost Keys has its melancholy guitar lick laying down a sadness that is amplified immensely by this howling guitar feedback that conjures a feeling of grief and punishing loss. It moves into heartbeats and a conversation with a doctor that makes the song feel like a soul has been clutched from the jaws of death.

Rosetta Stoned brings back the foundational guitar work and theme established. Its another epic brew of swelling music that takes its time mounting through itself but after that eleven minutes the album tends to loose my captivation as ponderous and crawling paces of subtle and tender atmospheres don't quite grab me as much as they did when the record was fresh. Its a strange criticism because the dynamic nature of this band is whats so interesting but as it draws on the magic of their pacing feels lost as the momentum keeps sinking back into the quiet. Its hard to say what record is their best but this certainly feels worthy of being considered alongside Lateralus.

Favorite Tracks: Jambi, The Pot, Lost Keys, Rosetta Stoned
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Alice In Chains "Sap" (1991)

Prior to their monumental sophomore record Dirt, Alice In Chains released this five track acoustic EP which I had previously glossed over. Reviving Sap to my playlist, It took me a few spins to get past the change in temperament. Then I found another charm this group possess, a side of them not felt from the acoustic compliment that creeps into their dominantly heavy music. In stripping back the distortion guitars, their Grunge and Groove Metal energy leaves a void filled by a range of influences. Folk, Blues Rock and Country all have leanings on these traditional, acoustic guitar led song styles, blossoming into a different and simply indulgent experience.

Its opening track Brother is almost unrecognizable. I believe it is Staley singing with a soft casual, breathy persona, a polar shift from his normally electric out-poor. Guest vocalist Ann Wilson of Heart harmonizes in a higher octave on the chorus for another unexpected spice. In getting familiar with it, a warm and tender song of sombre acceptance emerges and that emotional reverence flows onward. I believe Ann returns again on Am I Inside. Her small roll adds a keen flavor, much like the bright piano that creeps in under the haunting guitar. Aligned with shimmers of cymbals and brief bongo patters it speaks volumes to their musical ability and inspiration.

The bass guitar lays down some deep, warm rumblings to thicken out these sombre acoustic strokes. It gets a gritty pump of groove going on Got Me Wrong, the only track to deploy distortion guitars. In a strange way you can hear them being pulled back to the more expectant sound but the two styles just pull the slider back and forth, rather than gelling into something bigger. The last track is a joke track of skits, goofs and gaffs with comical musical arrangements. Its quite fun and a peek into a less serious side of the musicians, a nice something to throw in at the end.

Favorite Tracks: Brother, Am I Inside
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 10 May 2019

Death Fortress "Triumph Of The Undying" (2017)

My excitement over this record has simply failed to ignite. I found myself enthralled by Reign Of The Unending and its mighty, Immortal inspired freezing Black Metal! I was keen to get into the previous chapter by the New Jersey based outfit but it has not been so. All the hallmarks are intact, pummeling blitz drumming, icy tremolo guitar noise, the vocals have both the shrill screams and the jaunting burly discernible roars. What it doesn't have nailed down is production. Its a scratchy, low fidelity affair that seems to fall folly to the fumbles Immortal did too on records like Blizzard Beasts.

On the other hand it could a case of "not in the mood" or burn out. I exhausted myself on the Immortal sound many moons ago with over indulgent binges. Death Fortress's previous record could of benefited from the charms of a nostalgia trip, resurrecting the fond excitement of unearthing this mysterious Black Metal music in my youth. The record does have a moments or two tho, Wisdom Of The Unspoken musters up a whirlwind of ferocity in the middle of the record after a slow build up. Its not enough though and flicking between the two records highlights some clear issues.

The overall tone and aesthetic is dulled by a scratchy convergence of sound where the intentional collision of instruments goes a little too far, leaving a certain frequency range sounding like white noise. It is all to easy to focus on. Its predecessor doesn't have this issue and I always notice how much clearer the drums rattle and the snare pops on that record. The guitars too feel denser where as here everything feels loose, sloppy and lacking in definition. The record passes without any interesting song structures or musical moments, it tends to just imminently drift from my focus.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, 6 May 2019

Arkhtinn "V" (2017)

Back for another plunge into the cosmic abyss we plunder V, the fifth Arkhtinn chapter. Although structured with the same two track format, both the shivery cold Black Metal onslaught and its complimenting Dark Ambient piece make their distinctions. Opening with an astral gleam of shimmering distant stars, its mysterious synths get to breath and make themselves known between the angular walls of sound we shall be battered with. When the blast beat thunders and the ferocity engulfs, slow and steady guitar chords let the synths flicker through in an epic delight. It opens up to a true sense of ascension and the drums switch into a double pedal blitz that rolls too its own groove.

As a rare moment of suspended calm takes hold, the fractured nature of the songs design reveals before the flick of a switch plunges us again into peril-less void only illuminated by the flickering astral synths. The guitars again offer elongated power chords showing a wider range of temperaments, eventually leading into more chunky palm muted guitar grooves. It furthers its descent with a break of unsettled bleakness, a psychedelic guitar lead shimmers from the shadows with a touch of Oranssi Pazuzu black magic! The song finds its way back to shrill pummeling and howling roars as an enchanting lead guitar climaxes the music around the thirteen minute mark.

From that point the song again shifts through similar phases, meandering through an extended section of unsettling synths that give one last burst of horror as a final blast of black noise surprises the listener. Its a far more diverse song with clear and stronger influences from traditional Symphonic Black Metal taking hold, yet its progression and structure do not birth more than the momentary arrangements. They do however dazzle in the spectacular darkness of low-fidelity mysteria. It makes for a far more memorable song but strays from the formula, probably for the best.

Its eighteen minute counterpart is more of a freight than the last Ambient piece. Its slew of mysterious and esoteric synths are complimented by howls and screams that lurk in the shadows and ride cold winds into focus. Its melodies elude and plenty of ambiguous rumblings create an atmosphere of wonder suspended before the arrival of dreaded horrors. An illuminating track keen to liven any imagination for the darker side. Overall this is a much better record, maybe the band show signs of developing a more refined and unique approach to the Darkspace motif. Lets see where they go!

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Alice In Chains "Facelift" (1990)

Recently Ive been on a timely nostalgic, heart aching Alice In Chains kick. It happens every now and then, I simply delve into a riotous binge that gets the adrenaline pumping. This time around I found myself rediscovering their debut record, it felt fresh and in the face, many of the songs seemed almost new and with some thought I realized its probably been over a decade since I last heard it. When discovering the band it was Dirt I was most drawn too and has thus established itself as one of the go to records alongside their post Layne Staley records. Facelift had been left neglected and what a gem its been, sitting here all these years unscathed, awaiting me again.

Its such a powerful debut from a new band helping to spearhead the Grunge movement. From the get go Alice In Chains have the Heavy Metal infusion integrated within their sound. Paired with the harmonization between Staley and guitarist Jerry Cantrell, its a two pronged attack, making a unique breed of rock and roll thunder, fit to move a crowd and also display a genuine emotional side too. The band have a habit of brooding an internal vulnerability and then unleashing it through swooning guitar grooves along with the haunting soar of Staleys notes or even eerie acoustic guitars that build painful tensions and uneasy atmospheres between the soars of energy.

For a debut record, not an inch sounds frail or as if they are finding a footing. The Seattle group fly out the gates with a frightening authenticity. The twelve songs give up a healthy variety and range within the sound. Slams of crunching guitar grooves, scores of erupting, electric solos and all temperaments of established Rock and Metal influence the grunge tone. There is a magnitude in the other direction too as a dynamic mix of darkly acoustics shape up the energetic rock with deeper meanings.
Love Hate Love and Confusion explore this shadowy side wonderfully, the loose drumming styles perfectly emphasizing the disjointed and exposed feelings these tracks start off with. Put You Down and I Know Something expose the Southern and Funk Rock styling among many other influences that detail Cantrell's unique riffing. In that aspect its a little rawer on this record but it is still fantastic how despite hearing their roots, one can experience something completely new blossoming from it. Utterly brilliant album, another 90s relic to behold! I love this decade.

Favorite Tracks: We Die Young, Man In The Box, Bleed The Freak, Love Hate Love, Confusion, Real Thing
Rating: 9/10

Friday, 3 May 2019

Periphery "Periphery IV Hail Stan" (2019)

For some time Ive been eagerly anticipating the next installment from Djent wizards Periphery. The previous III Select Difficulty has become an utter favorite of mine, in terms of recent metal records. Its string of electrifying songs in the opening are still riveting to this day. The bar has been set high and a meaty sixty four minutes look set to rock my world. The opening three tracks get the blood pumping and considering Reptile is sixteen minutes long its as good a stretch of music as the last time around.

Unfortunately beyond the first twenty five minutes the record slowly losses footing, its songs don't reach the same octane energy. Somewhat indecisive directions emerge as the tracks seem to dip their toes into potential new directions, with unconvincing results. The club beat drum kit and digital dub bass rumble of Crush doesn't quite hit its potential. With a juxtaposing atmosphere above its backbone, its stitched together with string sections that reach towards epic heights but don't quite gel so smoothly.

 Their singer Spencer Sotelo has a fantastic voice that is capable of far more than just Metal. Its always a pleasure to have him swoon on the microphone but when the instrumentation softens around him on songs like Satalites and It's Only Smiles, a vibe emerges similar to Bring Me The Horizon's pursuit of Pop Rock infusion. It doesn't sit all to well with this band, Its these moments and other noticeable infusions of string sections, choirs and electronics that don't always find convincing cohesion.

Its all found between a wash of brutal Djent and when experimenting within their comfort zone Periphery knock out banging sequences like the breakdown on Follow Your Ghost. It toys with an uneasy timing sequence that maddens the gruesome pummeling of its dexterous guitar picking. Sentient Glow is another song with some dynamic energy leaning into a Metalcore direction, as it breaks its choppy riffs up with melodic outbreaks. Fun, but its really all about the first three songs for me, everything else seems marked by some creative shift that doesn't quite fit their mold.

At sixteen minutes Reptile is able to hold your attention with remarkable consistency. Periphery deploy the best of their metallic strikes, an intensity that's only broken at the midway atmospheric break to bring on a familiar rough, throaty poetic voice from Sikth. After that the stakes are raised, soaring to new heights only to plummet back into lunging grooves that lead off a mesmerizing monochromatic chug fest. Were at the ten minute mark and the best is yet to come, guitar solos illuminate and sections are recycled before birthing another ear worming groove of mechanical precision.

The following Blood Eagle has been on repeat since the video dropped on youtube. Its nothing but a dirty indulgent festering of primal groove and primitive brutality shaped up into an onslaught of high octane guitar shredding and pummeling percussive attitude. Eventually it births a magical guitar solo that descends from melody to atonal shredding with delight. Ultimately this album is one third spectacular and two thirds ambiguous to whether I like it or not. Ive given much time to dig it, maybe now some absence is now the remedy to its enjoyment.

Favorite Tracks: Reptile, Blood Eagle, Follow Your Ghost
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Ruido-mm "Rasura" (2014)

Hailing from Brazil, a fine craft of Post-Rock epic emerges. Rasura is fourth effort over a ten year span and that frequency may speak to the detail and care this record bestows. As an instrumental piece, the depth of instrumentation at work lets a plethora of tones, tangents and threads take limelight on a wholesome journey of warm, engrossing, uplifting atmospheres. Its a canvas for your imagination as emotions are birthed and conceded in the swelling of delicate and delicious deliberations.

Its the typical Post-Rock affair of shimmering guitars wailing in the breeze of their own reverberations, playing with tone and expansive sounds. The record also musters occasional outbreaks of conventional melody, imprinting clear and decisive tunes to hum along with in the wake of the more ambiguous, and scenically poised sound, although it leans to a progressive avenue. All of it is handled with an inspired touch, a organic web of instruments, yielding an ever changing chemistry to excel its vision. It is indeed the strength of the genre, to trade in the flat and equated roll of instruments fitting into structures and instead blossoming sounds into wild blooming adventures.

Rudio-mm achieve this wonderfully. The music will be personal to each individual and I find myself engulfed with a soft, warm earnestness each listen but only up to a point. After the Shoegazing dabble of Filete, the last two songs seem to fumble in pace and the borrowing of famous classical melodies deployed on the keyboard seem grandiose in their moment but pale against a rather dull ten minute stretch. Its an odd fumble but over the months Ive been enjoying this record its always the last fraction of the music that looses me. Otherwise its pretty fantastic and memorable!

Favorite Tracks: Electrostatica, Cromaqui, Filete
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 29 April 2019

Hexenkraft "The Infernal Schism" (2017)

The Infernal Schism is the second mini album from Synthwave outfit Hexenkraft. Its a pivot from the genres tropes to a far more fitting direction. The diabolical theme, present in name, presentation and sound, finds a different temperament across its five tracks. The pulsating, energetic, oscillating synths are deployed at a steady pace with a target on atmosphere and scale, as opposed to high octane onslaught that came before. Gone are the driving, thudding kicks and cutting snares of club EDM beats. Now the drum patterns utilize space as a weapon, casting a bare framework to build percussive tangents out of, many of which are rather gaudy and unsatisfying given the pallet of sounds. Clinging to them, a swirl of unraveling synths, buzzing and phasing across the soundscape. Loose forms of melodies drop in and out of focus and occasionally some heights are scaled by lead synths playing out a form of nightly adventurous solo. There is even an actual distortion guitar solo stashed in here too.

Despite this pivotal move to a steady, brooding beast, the same problems plague the music. Its overselling of the theme leaves a couple tracks out of color. It does however conjure streaks of gusto as its components align with a sinister presence, the likes found from the comfort of a video game. The final track gets fired up with aid from heretic samples. After its opening phase the song lulls with suspense as its synths steadily build to the unleashing of some chunky Industrial Metal style guitar emulating tones. Its got Metal fever and energy to match, a big bow out for a rather mediocre project. A lot of the record is meandering and without conclusion of direction. The occasional Doom snippets muster some excitement but unless in the right mood, often as background music, it doesn't hold up so well. It would however make a fantastic game soundtrack. Music like this often does and If I had gotten into it charging down corridors of a demon infested mars base, blasting weapons at beastly creatures, I'm sure id love it. Its a fair grade better than the debut, the shift in direction a fitting one but there is still a long way for this project to go in my opinion.

Favorite Track: Diabolus Ex Nihilo
Rating: 5/10