Sunday, 31 December 2017

My Top 10 Music Discoverys In 2017

Its been a difficult list to write up, had to shorten fifteen or so down to ten and that is after I decided to remove artists that featured in My Top Albums Of 2017 post. Its been a hectic year and I think it may be time to tune out from some of the mediocre Metal bands Ive kept up with and dedicate some more time to discovering new sounds! These are my favorite discoveries this year.

(10) DMX

Not a name that's new to me and of course I heard Party Up and other classics plenty of times before but I decided to get through some of these records that dominated the charts towards the end of the record industries stranglehold on music. I'm glad I did so, not the greatest records ever but X has a charm and every album had a couple of great tracks to return to.

(9) Post-Malone

Although I've not been to impressed by his debut album I think Post-Malone shows a wealth of potential as a musician developing a new sound that's really engrossing with over the top relaxing and chilled out vibes. These songs are still growing on me and with a new album is on the way I find myself really anticipating his next move!

(8) Austra

The best of this band comes from their debut Feel It Break, the combination of Kraftwerk-alike melodies in simple electronic arrangements with Stelamnis's hypnotic vibrato voice makes for easy going, uplifting music with a strong current of emotional value attached to it. Great discovery but unfortunately It seems as if they might not reach this peak again.

(7) Oranssi Pazuzu

Inching open the Metal horizon even further Oranssi Pazuzu bring dark, abysmal psychedelia to Post-Black Metal with a freighting stroke of genius resulting in harrowing, grisly soundscapes that are completely unworldly. My cup of tea! I still very much love to turn on their seventeen minute epic song from time to time for another trip into the depths of abandon.

(6) Milk Teeth

This is just the right shade of Grunge for my taste, although in this Internet age they may come off like a nostalgia act, Milk Teeth are very much their own band with a strong emotional energy and ear for aesthetic noise that elevates many of their songs with wild noisy energy emanating from their guitars in the songs peaks. The latest release did seem a little turned off from that direction but I'm hoping they can turn it around!

(5) Puppy

Ive had the pleasure of seeing them twice this year and both shows were fantastic! Puppy are an up and coming band pulling in all strains of influence from Metal, Grunge, Hard Rock and Alternative resulting in warm music with fun songs, grooves and dazzling guitar solos from Jack Norten are the cherry on the cake! They are also working on a new record to look forward to in 2018.

(4) Fief

Plucked from the past, this gem of medieval fantasy nostalgia is the most inviting and easy going project to grace my ears this year! It casts its spell instantaneously and paints a pretty picture of garden courts and tea parties in the realms of kings and dragons. A simply wonderful discovery!

(3) Load & Reload

Its time to break the rules! Although this section is usually reserved for new bands, I had to put these records in. In a way it felt like discovering Metallica again for the first time, a treasure trove was unlocked in two excellent albums that I had dismissed in my youth, and now I get to relish in the energy they bring. I simply cannot get these albums out of my head! They are wonderful and reflectively a really great direction for the band to evelve in.

(2) Puff Daddy

Everyone who grew up in the nineties knows of Puff Daddy but I had always been put off by his whispering voices on songs he had produced for other artists. Remembering a vivid memory of picking this album up as a child in a record store I decided to check this out and what a treat! This album is the epitome of the late 90s sound which has really grown on me over the years. I adore this record, a real classic!

(1) Danzig

As much as I'm loving the Danzig sound I have to admit my appreciation is partially analytical, I understand whats fantastic about the music but I feel as if I'm playing catch up. It will take some time to drill these songs into my mind but already I feel as if this would of been perfect music to bond with in your youth. I'm on the third record now and its just a great! I've read the first four are where its at so more Danzig to enjoy in 2018!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

My Top 10 Albums Of 2017

Another year rolls around and looking back over my posts there was a lot of good music enjoyed which I struggled to narrow into a list of ten. With almost ninety new releases covered this year I have noticed to no surprise a bit to much Metal. I think that's why my top ten is proportionately less metallic than the bulk of music I enjoyed. I think next years goal should be to avoid predictably dull Metal records and get into new sounds that can have a bigger impact on me!
(10) Trivium "The Sin And The Sentence" link

I was a little hesitant to put this one on the list, its all a bit fresh to me still but given their reputation I don't think Trivium's music will fade on me anytime soon, this record is so well crafted, all its hooks and riffs are balanced so well, the fuel tank never runs out from start to finish it has you in its grasp.

(9) Lorde "Melodrama" link

Some albums take a little time to show themselves. On release It was obviously impressive but later in the year revisiting this record the emotions flowed and all the intricacies of the production come washing over like a flood, especially Lorde's voice which has certainly shown its charm.

(8) Wiley "Godfather" link

Hes a name brand! Or at least that's how the hook goes. This was actually my introduction to Wiley, I name I've heard of since the early days of Grime. I was blown back by how tight the production and rhymes are, Godfather is a solid record loaded with fun hooks and goofy bad man characters that are so much fun given the technicality of Wileys flows. Looking forward to the sequel in 2018!

(7) Cavalera Conspiracy "Psychosis" link

Its hard to get excited for straight up balls to the wall metallic heaviness these days but from an unexpected place comes an album so tightly crafted its groove and heavy bombastic noise is tuned to full throttled. With a fantastic scope of creativity in the instrumentation beyond Metal's bare bones, the record is elevated to a place where the best of old and new ideas meet in flawless execution.

(6) Kendrick Lamar "DAMN." link

I don't think anything comes close in terms of Hip Hop this year. Kendrick is serving the old generation and new with fresh creative beats and a fiery, ambitious flow loaded with intelligent lyrics to chew into. It was a slow burn for me at first but I enjoyed it most when my phones shuffle feature would pull me back into the record time and time again, that's when it really clicked for me.

(5) Erang "Songs Of Scars" link

Although its part of the Anti Future off shoot, Songs Of Scars is Erang's best work yet. In this vision the music really hits its stride, delivering cinematic music drenched in a mysterious eighties nostalgia that's creepy, playful and adventurous. The instrumentation is lush and the production right on point for a riveting listen that holds you from start to end.

(4) Godflesh "Post Self" link

Broadrick has out done himself here, twenty eight years on from his prolific Streetcleaner album you wouldn't expect that stroke of genius again but with Post Self he has reinvented the Godflesh sound for something truly riveting. It wasn't actually until I sat down to write up on this record that its genius really struck me. There is so much brilliance in the intricacies that it engulfs you with ease.

(3) Fever Ray "Plunge" link

I have been thrilled by the release of this record! Given the large silence since Fever Ray I thought it may never come! Plunge is a similar beast but more experimental with Noise and Industrial influences making an earthly racket on an album that feels initially challenging but doesn't interrupt the core of the music which is very much in the same vein, its not as good as her self titled but still one heck of a record you can place alongside it.

(2) Horsebeach "Beauty & Sadness" link

 A viewer was kind enough to share their bands bandcamp with me, I had no clue what was in store, least of all did expect to find such a gem! I adore this record, the music, its aesthetics the quirky interlude tracks. It feels like a slice of time frozen, the mood and tone frozen, only to come to life when you hit play. Really blown away by this one, its a gorgeous swell of emotion and passion.

(1) Sikth "The Future In Whose Eyes" link

With each and every listen this album failed to loose the charm it bestowed after only a few listens. I thought these riffs and hooks might fade with repetition but it has held up so well over the months making up this year. Time and time again it has delivered, I think the lack of intentionally bombastic or obvious moments lets the craft of the songs hold up. I also got to catch a couple of the songs live which was a real treat!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Enslaved "E" (2017)

Eight lengthy tracks clocking in at an hour make up this indulgent journey through abysmal rain and thunderous storms in a climate safe from harm. We swing from the calms of gentle, luscious melodies sung from soft synths and glossy pianos as they peak through gristly rock, sturdy distortion guitars in stretches that swell into grim plummets and measured fiery onslaughts of darkness. With gleam and triumph shrouded in ancient mystery the tone is set, a path of heathen spirituality in the roots of mother nature emanates in calmer passageways. Viking choral chants occasionally greet us as we wander through mystic terrain on an epic, inspired journey.

 At this point in their career Enslaved have little to prove, fourteen albums in with a solid track record the band are freed to home in on their craft and forge songs that achieve their inspiration with little to fault. The maturity and expanded pallet lets the core sound flourish with touches of influence that spread as far as Jazz with a saxophone solo on "Hindsight" fitting so snugly into the song it barely makes itself known as an uncommon instrument but rather a perfect touch to illuminate the music. Many Post-Metal guitar sounds emerge with flourishes of shimmering Shoe-gazing leads and even Sludge in scattered guitar grooves that move in menacing lugs of burly force, often accompanied by the harsh scream of Kjellson who doesn't charm with these strained and sterile screams.

These songs are progressive, expansive, they twist and turn, evolving as time passes, making for a wonderful listening experience that's cinematic. Enriched by the layering of soft synths and occasional organs below the guitars, the flavor and aesthetic is sweetened but this chemistry is lost when the album is swept into the stormy dark. Still holding onto their roots, the music often strips itself to the raw components, "Djupet" being a song comprised entirely between the guitars and drums. It makes a little more sense when these Black Metal moments emerge in the sways of wandering songs but shows itself to hold back an otherwise far more intelligent, spell bounding chemistry that is at its best in its denser, melodic compositions.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Ixion "Return" (2017)

The slow burly jaunt of burgeoning gloom that is Doom Metal is both a charm and curse, often undoing the grasp on my attention in its prolonging of halting moments. With a luscious chemistry of thick, cushioning distortion guitars and light airy synths, Ixion paint a vivid pallet of soft and serene climates insulated within the void of space they theme their music around. Hailing from Brittany France, this is the bands third full length, continuing on a trajectory to polish their already smooth, inviting tone which is comparatively a little stiff and low-fi on the past two compared to the gorgeous production encapsulated in these forty four minutes.

A range of elegant pianos and synthesized sounds compliment the slow, bleeding melodies the guitars as the drums steadily drone out in a lethargic stride. With a plummeting scope of pace there are brief musters of fire with relaxed blast beats but its mostly a temperate stroll, descending into frequent disperses of crawls that have the kicks and cymbals of the drummer sound like a stranger in the distance. Its the backbone of the music, with almost all melodies unfolding in tandem with the drums.

Its mood lingers on sorrow, teetering on the void yet never plunging in. Its an interesting tone for music that so easily lets its self slip away. With moments of uplift and emergence of gleaming melodies, Return rests in a precarious place trapped between the void of black and gaze of heavens light as beautiful, serene melodies hold back the frozen pace from freezing over. Its a marvelous record I have great appreciation for if not a little disappointed in how the pacing so often losses my attention, otherwise its an inspired execution of ideas.

Favorite Songs: Into Her Light, Contact, The Dive
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Trivium "The Sin And The Sentence" (2017)

This is actually the first album I've listened to from the American band who are arguably one of modern Metal's most successful acts. I first heard them back when they broke through with their sophomore Ascendancy in 2005. In my naivety I cast them aside for reasons time has forgotten and there in the back of my mind they have been out of sight until a friend recently remarked on the quality of this record. What did I have to loose by checking it out? Nothing, but once again a reminder that closing out music is a fools game. I'm guessing it was probably the clean vocals that turned me off in my youth and so Ive missed out on the journey of a clearly brilliant band, once hailed "The next Metallica", something metal critics and fans alike seem to do so often.

The Sin And The Sentence is the bands eighth and a remarkably heavier record than I expected, the lightly rounded, crisp production lets pummeling pedals and blast beats erupt in moments of frenzy between measured and temperate arrangements of tone setting riffs that lead into satisfying guitar solos and grooves. From front to back Trivium deliver tantalizing guitar action that ranges from grizzly low end chugs to dazzling lead guitar melodies dancing above empowered baselines. Its all stitched together with a good ear for song structure, the songs never out stay there welcome and play through with a sense of anticipation of whats to come, often a climatic guitar solo.

Singer Heafy illuminates this record with a robust presence at the front of the music, dropping in fiery screams and shouts between his sturdy and mighty harmonious clean voice. His band mates chime in too, backing him up with energetic gang shouts and fleshing out the range. The choral variety is continually refreshing but the delivery compelling, stringing so many lyrics into memorable hooks that resonate of the instrumentals. Peaking and scaling with the music, following its climate the words leap to life, a pleasure to sing along with practically every song having its moment in the sun.

Its a potent record for a band deep into their career but no trajectory is linear, these are musicians, sometimes they evolve, and other times they burn out. Being unfamiliar with their catalog I can't make comparisons but I find myself a little taken back by the twelve songs of which you'll struggle to find a favorite. As the album draws on you might expect a dip but it never comes, track after track holds you in its grasp and when its over you'll happily spin it back to back. Excellent introduction to the band, I am now obliged to head back and see what Ive missed out on all these years!

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Eminem "Revival" (2017)

It feels crazy that I've never written before about Eminem on this blog before. He is pretty much thee musical name of my generation. Making his break around the millennium with Dr.Dre at his side, the Detroit rapper rose to phenomenal levels of success no thanks to his unrivaled talent and unique persona. I fondly miss the self loathing days of Slim Shady, the adopted rap personality of a desperate individual, framing his suffering on stage to the point of self mockery in an unwavering drive to make it in the Rap game. We've come along way since those early days, I checked out after Relapse, Em's reinvented self not quite to my taste. With sparks like Rap God on his previous record I found myself very keen on hearing this next chapter in his story.

Opening with an intrinsic string of words to set tone, Em's mission statement raises the bar high for a musician who constantly doubts himself in a pursuit of perfectionism. The sounds of paper ripping between his words of anguish paints him as a failure in his mind, perhaps disconnected from the reality that his name like his will always feel relevant in music. It gives way to more self indulged lyrics that come off sharp as snappy the snare which he rides with a jolted flow. Moving into Chloraseptic he hits the mark, turning to fiery spiteful battle raps over a viscous slick beat but after a tight, witty opening verse that swiftly subsides to a string of crude, sleazy rhymes.

Tracks like Untouchable and Like Home go in hard and political, Em getting fired up in defense of Black Americans living in institutional racism. He makes no mystery of his liberal leanings here, his rage and anger fueling strings of rhymes to serve his message as he takes shots at president Trump and republicans. Hes frank and blunt, spelling out the situation as he sees it raps that seek with others to take side with him. These topical track are far more meaningful and relevant with much food for thought however that probably depends on if you agree with how he sees the situation.

The focus shifts around through the track listing, Remind Me and Heat stick out as throwaway rump tracks with spews of crude and lewd lyrics that border on childish at times. Em jumps from topic to topic with old themes cropping up, revisiting his struggles with Kim. The three closing tracks are rather endearing, they play like another chapter in a chronology of songs about the unique relationship he has with his daughter Hailey, always fueling a deep passion he can't help but put to the microphone. His regrets and conflicts culminate in a musical suicide attempt he raps his way through the consequences as he perishes away in hospital, a very Eminem therapy style of song, ending with a hint this is his last album as they throwback the beat.

 There are flashes of his brilliance littered and his talent props up a lot of lack luster topical schemes. The first listen through felt fresh and exciting, a lot of his throwbacks to themes from his roots really drew in a distanced fan. His loose mouth and shots at Trump felt like the rebellion I expected to hear from Marilyn Manson who dropped the ball on relevancy. Unfortunately a lot of the tracks fell through on the second and third spins before much of the record felt tired and spent. A lot of this could be down to the weak production which is in all fairness well put together but behind the curb of excitement with dated ideas, even more so with the inclusion of his collaborations.

Eminem had so much to say and prove in the naughties but now he sounds trapped in the same internal struggles, the difference is he believes its now all his too loose. The irony is the albums best comes from the most personal themes we've heard before. There's an EP's worth of good here but this material is loosely stapled together with sub par songs, fluff and seemingly name sake features to bolster his reputation, I think only Beyonce and Skylar Grey made a positive impact on the music. Other features like Ed Sheeran felt very positional. Mildly disappointing, some good things to take away, I just hope that Em doesn't give up on trying to hit the mark again.

Rating: 4/10
Favorite Tracks: Walk On Water, Untouchable, In Your Head, Castle, Arose

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Post Malone "Stoney" (2016)

I've only heard of Post Malone thanks to his friendship with the H3H3 duo, somehow missing the massive White Iverson single which has blown up to almost half a billion youtube views. That song alone encapsulates the records atmosphere which is obviously appealing for its mellow, relaxing and chilled out vibes. By using a lot of Hip Hop tropes and simple, stylistic oriented lyrics Malone hasn't been praised by the critical media however his massive success is testament to something unique he possesses that isn't heard elsewhere. Its not to say there is genius at work but clearly there are signs.

Two factors make their mark on this record, firstly Malone's laid back vocals swing between easy paced, straightforward yet slang soaked raps and tuneful R&B singing. Relying heavily on autotune inflections and double tracking, his voice finds a warm, inviting, painless place to operate from that's at many times rather spell binding in his ability to create an unwinding atmosphere to indulge in. Verses flow sweetly as words are stretched to the rhythm, often lyrically lack luster, simple rhymes for instinctive thoughts that occasional spark with a couple of cracking hooks like the chorus on "Congratulations", nothing you'll forget soon but that's no the fate of ninety percent of these words.

The second factor is production, mostly following the tropes of this Trap influenced era of Hip Hop, fast shuffling hi-hats and spacious kicks often dominate the percussive dimension and on some tracks they dive deeper into the disposable with "skrt skrt" shouts and jives. Its not particularly charming but its always smothered by the wash of dreamy synths and the melding of airy reverbs and sweep phasers coming from all angles to form a soft and serine setting that's mostly very persuasive. Its best moments come when the trendy beats are stripped back and other influences take form.

Songs like Go Flex with its acoustic guitar, soft strings, kick clap percussive and Up There with warm pianos and electric guitar licks, stand out as the deeper cuts. With elevated instrumentation not relying on trendy beats shows Malone's voice is a wonderful fit for something more ambitious. I can't rave about this record, it may be sweet, mellow and relaxing as it gets but a large portion of the lyrics are lacking and the instrumental qualities varies a lot. It does however have those moments that give a real sense of promise for Malone considering he wants to pursue his Pop and Country roots over this Hip Hop oriented sound.

Favorite Tracks: I Fall Apart, Go Flex, Congratulations, Up There
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 17 December 2017

American Head Charge "The War Of Art" (2001)

Released amidst the peak of Nu Metal's popularity and over-saturation, American Head Charge's sophomore album and major label debut exists in a small bubble of records that haven't aged poorly from the short lived, controversial wave of Metal music. With the backing of industry giants, bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn helped thrust the music into the mainstream where it died and vanished swiftly. The War Of Art is actually a record Id never heard of until recently and given my curiosity with the music of my youth I was rather astonished to hear a really solid album considering the amount of band wagon hoping garbage that came out around the time.

American Head Charge were at the time a seven piece outfit from Minnesota who got signed to Rick Ruben's American Recordings label, subsequently recording with Ruben in his Houdini Mansion, the same place Slipknot recorded their Volume 3 album. The War Of Art rumbles out the gates growling, establishing its mean tone swiftly. Big bombastic riffs bump back and forth loaded with palm muting and harmonic squeals. Singer Heacock arms the onslaught with angry, violent screams and fantastic breaks into harmonious vocals, carrying a note yet still feeling grounded and gritty, full of the mood. A string of songs keep the anger soaked, fist pumping adrenaline going before changing pace.

With two musicians credited for electronics and sampling, the record is tinged with an Industrial flavor as the already noisy guitars are stacked with decorative samples, the sounds of sirens, synths and vinyl scratches creep into what little space is left around the guitars. Every song is loaded with subtle nuances to spot, more obviously emerging as complimentary noises in the guitar breakdowns but very rarely making itself the focal point. It doesn't feel dense, deep or overloaded but the two add a texture that is there for the attentive ear, otherwise it slips into the experience.

Despite the tropes of the time making for much forgettable music, AMC's typically Nu Metal riffage finds itself coming of better with strong influences from Groove Metal, mainly Machine Head, landing many riffs in solid territory. Tight choppy grooves and big bouncing dropped power chords are formed into decent songs that Heacock can bring to life with his clean vocals. The slamming drums of Chris Emery holds it all together for a cohesive sound that powers through with a steady intensity.

The song "Just So You Know" strikes me as a track that summarizes the album best, its got that teenage angst, moody self indulgence vibe so cliche of the times. Its guitars drop out for sad and downcast links between the riffs yet even being a blueprint for disaster the musicians pull it through to a memorable place. At eighty minutes the album is unnecessarily bloated. Although it doesn't have any stinkers its best songs could be refined into a shorter, to the point record as it tends to outpace the listener, or at least my appetite. Great record! A curios retroactive listen given I never heard of AMC or this release at the time.

Rating: 6/10
Favortie Tracks: A Violent Reaction, Pushing The Envelope, Never Get Caught, Just So You Know,

Friday, 15 December 2017

Danzig "II Lucifuge" (1990)

Two years off the back of the self titled debut, Glenn Danzig and his cronies reunite with Rick Ruben for another stab at their metallic tinged blues rock. Taking a vigorous stride forward, Lucifuge marks the solidifying of ideas heard on the first record while turning up the intensity, a nuance you could easily miss. Its a sweet and simple progression that has very much the same blueprint and aesthetics yet a learner, harder Heavy Metal approach brings out a touch more aggression and attitude in the guitars while Danzig himself revels in his voice, finding much comfort and ease in this tone he has carved for himself.

 Opening with meaty temperate grooves and harmonics loaded into classic metallic fretting, the rock and wail is illuminated with more intermittent guitar leads, mini solos and licks over the top of mighty power chords, raising the energy for Danzig to steal the show with his deep burly voice, flexing Country accents and tinges of Southern sounds in his bluesy performance. He sounds born of hell, weathered yet youthful, full of energy but engaged with life's burdens. It culminates with strings of classic lyrics and choruses to sing along too, as well as many big riffs which often come front and center when the songs shift to the slow and hellish elongated grooves reminiscent of Doom Metal and mainly Black Sabbath on a couple of tracks.

"I'm The One" goes full Country, an athletic acoustic guitar bustles in the silence between Danzig's musings, a lone hi hat holds the tempo down with its steady rattle. It feels as if the track will erupt into overdrive but it never quite comes. Its followed by a string of sterling songs that lead to "Blood And Tears", a slower, sorrowful song that plays like an old timers ballad, peaked by a solo and illuminated by the soft glow of a buried organ. The record is a shade better than its predecessor, my enjoyment still feels a little limited but it gets steadily more infectious with more exposure. I really get the impression these records would of dazzled be blind in my youth!

Favorite Tracks: Killer Wolf, Her Black Wings, Blood And Tears
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Wu-Tang Clan "The W" (2000)

After a dive into their sophomore double album Wu-Tang Forever I thought Id reacquaint myself with the nine man clans third which includes the groups most known song "Gravel Pit" and a personal favorite of mine "Protect Your Neck", a warm rap track with a sunny groovin baseline, fills me with fond memories of downloading the MP3 from Napaster! The record has a fine flow, The RZA's production dials back the gritty and raw in favor of tighter aesthetics with slick drum kits playing off grisly, funky baselines loaded with 70s samples. The tracks roll off one another, from rap brandishing pedestals to moving message oriented songs with soulful samples the record would be solid if it wasn't for a couple of duds.

What makes The W noticeably different is the inclusion of artists outside the Wu-affiliation circle. Old Dirty Bastard turns up on just one track, bringing along legend Snoop Dogg for the lousy "MC conditioner" hook and forgettable verses on an average beat with demo quality recording quality vocals from ODB. Snoop is mixed in quietly between his verses, its a a real flop and also the albums longest track. On the shortest Busta Rhymes turns up on a quirkier, temperate beat that doesn't suit his hyped style. Aside from those weak points, rappers Redman, Nas and Streetlife turn up with sharp rhymes worthy of the Wu. The reggae voice of Junior Reed and deep soulful tenor of Isaac Hayes light up their tracks with fantastic contributions too.

Even with a host of accomplices, no one outshines the Wu at their own game. The Shaolin style is prominent as to be expected, the rhymes and beats sharp and on fire, perhaps with a little less hype and rawness as these are now seasoned veterans calculating their moves in battle. "Careful" takes the cake as the records best song, a mysterious tomb raider alike beat sets the stage for a string of classic group shout hooks, each rhyme playing of the last. "Something in slum went rhum-peh-pum-pum". Great album, the following Iron Flag is unfortunately the drop off point for the group.

Favorite Tracks: Careful, One Blood Under W, Protect Your Neck, I Cant Go To Sleep, Gravel Pit
Rating: 8/10

Monday, 11 December 2017

William Patrick Corgan "Ogilala" (2017)

In absence of a new Smashing Pumpkins record we have a solo project by Billy Corgan that is essentially the same musical source stripped of percussion and distortion guitars. Ogilala is a folksy acoustic rock record with a lush touch of dazzle and spark. The bustle of acoustic chord strumming and Corgan's passionate voice is enriched by piano keys, strings, organs and even light synths akin to the ones heard on old Pumpkins records. Gorgeous production acoustics give it a earnest, inviting tone but after four good songs at the opening the album lulls into a spell of mediocrity once its best ideas are exhausted.

My biggest qualm with this record is most noticeably absent in my favorite track, "Aeronaut", a toned down vibe alike to The Verve's classic Bitter Sweet Symphony. The track drops the acoustic guitars for a string, voice and piano triplet that feels more comfortable with out the busying strumming of distant chords. The acoustic guitar is film and limp, its chords underwhelming and quiet, the sound of the pick flexing on the strings cast a shadow on the musical make up and empowers a rhythm that's one dimensional and not required.

With that In mind the failings of the record become sorely obvious, the strings or organs lay soft backings to these chord arrangements and the inclusion of pianos often just accent particular notes in the chord. The music revolves around an instrument that's just not working and despite Corgan's sincere singing the songs fall into the flat and narrow of simple compositions. With a lack of depth in that department, repeated listens yield little reward. Its unfortunate but you could possibly chalk this down to a distortion guitarists approach to acoustic not coming off well as many of these songs feel a step away from being Pumpkins songs with blaring guitars! An honest effort but it didn't work for my ears.

Favorite Track: Aeronaut
Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Godflesh "Post Self" (2017)

The clamouring chunks of battered carcass crash and collide as the desending weight of Godflesh's signature sound, the building blocks of noise that boom and blare as bloated chunks brimming with thudding guitars and rumbliung baselines, thunder in frieght between the fracas of furious dissonance thats wails between the roar and flails. The two pillars that support their iconic sound are tentatively pulled apart, the opening metallic grooves of "Post Self", "Parasite" and "No Body" find the discordant breaks between low end riffage stretched, expanded and pulled apart as the albums songs steadily plunge into harrowing, dark and introverted atmosphers of self psycadelia where guitar noise soundscapes reign supreme as experimentation strikes inspirational gold.

The listening experience of an album comes to life here as track skipping and attempted plucking of "moments" spoil the intensity of letting the forty seven minutes of music unfold into itself. The blackened hands emerge from the shade, grasping, smothering dragging one into the shadows of introspective ambiguity, the light that shines on but does not illuminate. The loud, visceral nature of the record is like a morbid curiosity that swells in your conscious, the fixation on an ugly mechanical beast lost, wounded in your paradise. Suffering, pain and anguish scream in agony as we observe from a distance, the industrial rumblings that motor and drill away as soundscapes of punishment play themselves out.

Broadrick's return to Godflesh in 2014 with A World Lit Only By Fire was rather disappointing. After such a long hiatus, a stripped back, bare bones, riff orientated metal album felt lacking as the most explored and obvious side of Godflesh was resurrected. With Post Self a wild pallet of tone and texture emerges as all sorts of influences and links signify themselves from the purpose of the music. The Industrial drum beats frequently pump and thud like decelerated EDM grooves, the deep textures of sound intensify viscerally like Power Noise, the sonic soundscapes of dissonant guitars echo Post-Punk bands and ravishingly stark synths in the closing tracks pull the likes of astral ambiance to the center of a bleak and harsh experience.

This record has reinvented the excitement once heard on Streetcleaner and Pure, the immediacy and indulgence of the record is sublime, a moody, sonic textural exploration peaked by endless strings of ideas that spark, the wailing, desperate screams on "Post Self", the intertwined noise and depraved screaming that burrows into hell on "Be God". The record is loaded with vocal work that masks itself into the wall of sound, even taking on robotic, electrified distortions on another track. With attentive ears many percussive abuses and glitches meld into the smothering sound... oh and how can one not delight in the glory of the guitars that rediscover themselves track to track in the rich density of effect drenched guitar tones. Its simply a stunning record with an obvious direction that really lets the entire album serve as an unfolding experience to leave one in awe of its apex.

Favorite Tracks: Post Self, Be God, Mortality Sorrow
Rating: 9.5/10

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Cavalera Conspiracy "Psychosis" (2017)

"From beneath the slums of a third world, a two headed Brazilian Godzilla was born, destined to leave permanent sound scares on all under pale grey skies. Hell, chaos, pandemonium, the massacre continues and with no end in sight". That's the records closing lyric and It would be equally fitting as a tone setting mission statement. "Psychosis" is one heck of a record from the Cavalera brothers who have cast a lasting influence in the world of all things Metal, between them they have amassed around thirty records since their debut with Sepultura in 1985, a phenomenal output. Cavalera Conspiracy was a chapter in the legacy I could care less for, back in 2008 their debut Inflikted was a mediocre release and I had since failed to follow their releases and so I very nearly passed this one by.

What a mistake that would of been! Psychosis is one of the tightest, mean and hard hitting Metal records Ive heard in some time. The riffs are roaring with intensity, the grooves mammoth, full of swaying rigor and the album steadily sinks into the depths as the ferocity of sound borders into Industrial territory, even Black Metal with the frightening "Judas Pariah". The whole record is tinged with a retroactive ideology once heard on old Thrash Metal records, the demonic reverberations of vocal lines have been resurrected and executed with utter class and inspiration. Max's screams and shouts can creep in from the distance or shuffle across the stereo spectrum and often shatter into the vast chambers of space these effects can muster. Its a demonic pleasure that shrouds the record in classically evil overtones while shedding the cheese that old sound carried.

The records production is a treat, everything is loud, present and punchy without feeling "overloud". A crisp creation that squeezes the texture and power from the guitars alongside a devastating kit with a deep thudding base kick and ear piercing high pitched tom rolls that burst into the music, cutting like a devilish cascades of daggers descending upon the listener, gives me chills every time. The album's songs are pulled together for an album experience with atmospheric interludes of ambiguous dystopian obscurity. Vague voices can be heard in the rumblings of sound too, these cryptic themes often creep into the main sections of songs too, providing another layer of depth to the onslaught of riveting, thrashing music.

The album starts to push hard with "Hellfire", loading clattering industrial drum stomps behind the harsh, over distorted guitars that seem to intentionally peak the mix as supernatural synths drop in for a outlandish wall of sound that has grown on me much with familiarity. Its unusual amounting of sounds satisfyingly leads into a stomping breakdown groove with a violent snare drum striking like the snap of a whip. It leads into the aforementioned "Judas Periah", the deployment of blast beats and satanic snaky tremolo guitar riffs lead give it a very Black Metal tone that diverts us from the diabolical storm into another romp of a breakdown, big slamming guitars and light synths accenting the bounce will have your head swinging!

After dragging us through fires, the title track offers respite in an equally impressive esoteric soundscape track that slowly leads its rich layers of swamping sound, vibrant synths and effect soaked acoustics, into a collapsing of noise as the track falls in on itself. These ambitious clattering of experimentation in noise finds its final statement on the following and final song, ending with hellish alien sounds of suffering and a malevolent mechanical heartbeat that's truly as terrifying as it is vivid. This dimension gives the album a depth you can't help but feel can be peeled back to reveal more. Whatever vision the two have behind such a frighting ordeal becomes irrelevant in the impact of its reality. This is an all around flawless record that I have yet to tire from an inch in my binging of the hailstorm that is "Psychosis". Kudos Cavalera brothers, the fire still burns bright in Brazil.

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Ulver "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" (2017)

To use Francis Bacon's horrifying "Screaming Pope" as a record cover is an ambitious statement. For a band once associated with Black Metal I half expected this to be a transition in sound but this three track EP is simply additional songs from the The Assassination Of Julius Ceasar recording sessions. Despite being left out, these may be some of the best songs from the album released earlier in the year. For Ulver's lush and serine re-imagining of 80s Synth Pop I do not understand the relation with the dark and harrowing painting of Fancis Bacon but its the least of concerns given there are three new songs to enjoy.

"Echo Chamber" treads on unearthed ground, an atmosphere of unsettled tension, cautiously guides us through a mid-tempo night time drive of synthetic atmosphere. Slow, winding melodies scale up against Rygg's lyrics siting terror events in London as a catalyst for the current social political climate. "Bring Out Your Dead" ironically brightens the mood with a fast bustling hi hat to shift things into cruise control, although the lyrics have a sad tone, the songs melodies and synth revolve around an uplifting emergence for the dark.

"The Power Of Love" gently unfolds with archaic pianos soaking in a rich reverb, Rygg softly sings with passion to lead us into a ballad as the instrumentation unfolds. Delicate deliveries and a sincere performance give it quite the charm and class to let an underlying string element lead us into a climatic conclusion in the songs second phase. Its a remarkable track but I can't help but ponder what a cheesy synth pop ballad it could of been. The same music, retrograded back a couple of decades, this would of been a blueprint chart topping cliche track, yet with the right approach and tone its an entirely different, very enduring song. A cracking EP, three solid songs, would love to hear more!

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Danzig "Danzig" (1988)

I'd never had much luck getting into the Misfits and if it wasn't for Rick Rubin's involvement producing this record Id probably of passed up diving into the solo material of an artist from a band I'm yet to vibe with. Named after front man Glenn Danzig, this four piece outfit revolve around their singer, songwriter who disbanded the Misfits six years earlier. His intent was to take his musically seriously, something he couldn't do with his former band mates and so he formed "Samhain", a band with a very similar image, using the same iconic font, following themes of horror and the occult in its imagery. The success of that band landed him a record deal with Rick Rubin's newly formed American Records and this is the resulting debut for both band and label, considered by many as a classic.

Danzig's voice and personality are the focal point of this record, its charm, atmosphere and attitude all swell from a creative force not heard like this before. Once an angry shout soaring over distortion guitars, Glenn tones down the format for a Hard Rock, grungy Blues Rock beast that has him singing with soul and passion over lightly overdriven guitars that kick blocks of chomping Heavy Metal groove between the mood of bluesy classic six string, plucked and strum chords arrangements.

 The blend of styles is warm and inviting, making for songs with a bit of bite and strength between its hard Blues Rock tone. Danzig's singing brings the record to life with his lower vocal range illuminating the feeling in his poetry. The riffs, words and arrangements all add up here on a lively record that's broken up neatly with Heavy Metal guitar solos tinged in a Southern Rock tone. The production is crisp for the era, the drums have an especially nice padded tone about them and it all culminates in a solid record with no weak points, an obviously classic but a style I am still becoming accustom to.

Favorite Tracks: Am I Demon, Mother
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 1 December 2017

Wu-Tang Clan "Wu-Tang Forever" (1997)

Four years passed and following up on their uncompromising classic debut Enter The Wu-Tang 36 Chambers, the nine rapper clan from Staten Island dropped an ambitious sophomore double LP intent of solidifying their place in Hip Hop's legacy. Clocking in at nearly two hours of music the group give their all for a lengthy record that perhaps suffers from its own ambitions as mediocrity in the beats and rhymes fill the gaps between strokes of sheer brilliance. There is undoubtedly a 36 Chambers worth of gold in here but drowned by a lack of filter the record suffocates itself with.
  I'm guilty of letting this record pass me by in the past, obviously "Triumph" is a timeless classic but beyond a couple of spins many years ago I never got into the rest. It wasn't until a recent discussion with a friend that I was encouraged to give it a proper try and so over the past few months Ive taken select moments to run through the two hour experience. What I leaned quickly is the best is loaded on the first disc and the second half unfortunately drifts. If that's listening fatigue, who knows? One things for sure, Ive missed out on some classic, banging Wu-Tang tracks all these years!

Forever is a measured step from its predecessor, not ready to leave the dirty, gritty beats behind it finds itself with a sharper, keen production, with a clarity the band steer clear of exploiting with a dirty, bold production from the RZA who keeps his beats rugged and raw, deploying similar production ideas from before and even some echoed drum loops and hooks heard on 36 Chambers. Raw sampling and forced chemistries illuminate the rhymes as the vocal fidelity stands a front, with each of the nine and guests like Cappadonna given a spotlight to shine as the beats spin on loop.

And shine brightly do they, Forever's most impressive moments come from the dexterous words of the nine and their free association style, in flourishing form, flipping rhymes, metaphors and meanings melded in the wordplay soup that spills with a splash to wet your apatite. When the Wu-Tang go off on one they have you in the palm of their hand, throwing flows like blows one can barely stay on their feet as fists fly by ears, your left trying to keep up. Props have to be given to Inspectah Deck who drops the albums... maybe the groups bests verses on "For Havens Sake" and "Triumph". Get your books and scalpel, dissection is required! "I bomb atomically, Socrates philosophies and hypotheses can't define how I be dropping these mockeries." The Wu-Tang need no accolades, their talent speaks volumes and the two discs are loaded with dense rhymes and flows to chew upon.

The instrumentals are perhaps out shun by the rhymes as their role is best served in forging the atmosphere and tone for the lyrics. It never feels like they overtake focus from whoever is on the mic. Studying the sample arrangement and drum beats exposes a lot of repetition that's again serving whoever is rhyming. The chemistry is right and it feels ironic that the best beats, "Severe Punishment", "Triumph" again, are where the best rhymes end up. RZA's gritty, raw style makes for many sinister, street atmospheres mixed in among socially conscious emotional tracks with a helping of sorrowful pianos, soulful samples and of course the sounds of martial arts, kung-fu flicks reinforcing the theme.

With a wealth of good material the album looses itself mostly on the second disc as the mediocrity becomes majority. If this where a single record it would be all killer no filler, possibly a classic but as the album draws on too many half baked ideas and lack of moderation let reasonable songs drown out the classic material. There are also themes of Wu-Tang education surfacing in the second half which don't tie up conceptually and tend to dissolve into rants. The ODB also drops some disgusting lyrics on "Dog Shit", usually a wild eccentric accent to the rhyming shenanigans of his group this solo performance feels like exactly that comparing its tone to the rest of the record. In 97 Wu-Tang struck back hard with a lot of ambition and I feel like they met that ambition, just not in the volume of a double record.

Favorite Tracks: For Havens Sake, Severe Punishment, A Better Tomorrow, Triumph, The City, Hellz Wind Staff
Rating: 8/10