Monday, 31 December 2018

My Top 10 Music Discoverys In 2018

 
Last year I wanted to tone down the amount of routine Metal records I delved into. I'm still yet to break that cycle but looking back over the past twelve months I am far happier with the short list of new discoveries. Narrowing it down to just ten, we have only three strictly metal outfits! Success... maybe, then again it should be about finding quality music, regardless of type. Anyway my plan for 2019 is to focus my efforts to music beyond what I normally gravitate to and not paying attention to releases from mediocre bands.

(10) Sleepy Sun

I only got into a single record of theirs but what an amazing listen Fever was! This American Rock band pull influences from many of the greats and put together an engulfing experience that ebbs and flows at all musical levels. It was a peach to engross in and Ill be sure to grab another record of theirs soon, I hope it will be as gorgeous as this one!

(9) Algiers

A fond discovery! Algiers are another act similar to Zeal And Ardor in resurrecting century old Blue and Chain Gang singing, fusing aspects with Post-Punk and Psychedelic Rock together, even Industrial accents encroach aesthetically. Its a real cluster of influences that has a clear vision and soul at the heart of their music.

(8) Janis Joplin

She's a legendary name in the history of music from decades gone by and I'm glad I found the connection at last but I am guilty once again of only getting into the one record! Pearl is simply stunning, a treat fueled by her passionate singing, a voice one can't forget easily. No doubt Ill pick up the other record she released soon.

(7) Pallbearer

Doom Metal most certainly goes a little beyond what clicks with me but one can really appreciate what this band do musically even if its not quite your cup of tea. Getting through the Pallbearer records has certainly lured me in closer and I am always fond of these scaling, epic songs whenever they return on shuffle.

(6) Myrkur

I was blessed to hear her angelic voice live twice this year! It was first at Download Festival, a happy accident! I have since worked through their records of which the latest, Mareridt, is the best. This band show huge potential and her singing and cultural roots is at the heart of that. She is as good live as on record!

(5) At The Gates

The name is unmissable at Metal shows and finally Ive haven gotten around to checking them out. Their early records are far more interesting and their later, like Slaughter Of The Soul, firmly fit them into the foundations of the Melodic Death Metal sound I know all to well through bands that came after them. It takes the edge of somewhat but you can still hear the magic of the music at that time.

(4) Steve Roach

My exploration of ambient music is often thwarted by its palatable nature but Structures From Silence and Dreamtime Return are exactly the sorts of albums I seek out. Magical records stemming directly from principle and inspiration that birth magic from minimalism. I was fortunate to hear of Steve, he is a pioneer in the genre and these records are mood transforming magics from the 80s before the connectivity and accessibility of the internet.

(3) Old Tower

I adore the idea of Dungeon Synth. In reality its a genre bogged down with waves of low effort music and releases given the low bar of entry. That's made it hard to discover decent artists over the years and Old Tower certainly started in that low entry range but with The Rise Of The Specter the dutch musician excelled and birthed something unique to give meaning to the Old Tower moniker. Its a uniquely meditative and spiritual take on the sound.

(2) Turnstile
 I cannot get enough of this band right now. Having gotten through all their records Ive found a Hardcore band that excels at being energetic and passionate without barbaric machismo. Their lyrics get in your head while the music continuously propels the momentum. Its infectious and which each record they have grown leading to the fantastic Space & Time with made My Top 10 Albums Of 2018 list this year!

(1) Logic

 Who else could it be? With a firm collection of records in his back catalog Ive spent the year getting through them and growing to really appreciate this artist. His name does not carry as much clout as it should. Being of the Eminem inspired generation I think critics don't give him credit where his technicality outshines originality. Logic also lacks curation but there are plenty gems to be unearthed in his plethora of songs. As records I think The Incredible True Story and Young Sinatra: Undeniable are his strongest. Only a few projects of his left to get through now!

Sunday, 30 December 2018

My Top 10 Albums Of 2018


The year rolls round and another selection of great records are added to the collection. Overall this year hasn't been quite as exciting as previous ones when it comes to top record lists. There were not as many apparent contenders, so it was an easier pick but the quality always emerges and this year has been marked by the trend of brief records. Short and sweet is a lasting formula when done right, six of the records in the list are under thirty minutes and have been the most returned to! I'm personally hoping this trend for curation continues, more of less and less of more!

(10) Zeal And Ardor "Stranger Fruit" link

A highly anticipated released that time will tell us of its greatness. Their new take on Black Metal is fresh and exciting and this new album builds on their notorious entrance onto the scene, becoming a bands band in the space of a few years. Its a mighty piece of music but one that still suggests their are places to groom and grow while in other cracks and avenues it firmly reaches musical peaks.

(9) Kanye West "Ye" link

Kanye leaves his mark on this year with three records in my top list. All of them needed time to grow on me. I liked them all to begin with but Ye took the longest. Its precisely what I prefer from artists of his stature, introspection and of the moment lyrics. It just took me a while to digest them fully but with that time I grew a lot of fondness for the vulnerability and honesty he showed in his words.
 
(8) Ho99o9 "Cyber Cop" link

Cyber Cop has the advantage of being in recent memory but since inception it has forged an unstoppable riot of frenetic energy within my mind. This is my workout music! It never fails to get me pumped up and enthusiastic. Unfortunately with any adrenaline fueling music that spell needs more absence to recharge but of the weeks I've binged on its chaotic Punk attitude I am yet to feel any tiredness to its charm.

(7) Pusha T "Daytona" link

At first I found Pusha T's plain tone and clear pronunciation a little dull but with every listen, and those beyond my initial post, I found myself myself being pulled in closer to his craft and growing a true appreciation for the record. His verses are concise and condensed, a series of firm statements and narratives that took me time to chew thru. It also helps to have a banger, What Would Meek Do, to pull you back in again from time to time! I need to check out more of this guy.

(6) Irreversible Mechanism "Immersion" link
 

I think I should schedule regular returns to this record. Its so dense and loaded with complexity, a beast to digest and talk about in my post. Whenever I return to it I am still overwhelmed with that dazzling feel of being mesmerized in its presence. Its truly a marvel of extremity and aesthetic, a reminder that there is always room to push further in the world of Extreme music. It will take many more spins to really wrap my head around. So much of it still takes me by surprise.

(5) C418 "Excursions" link

Its probably both a blessing and a curse to have your musical career kick started by a cultural phenomenon in the form of a video game. Anyone with a keen ear for music will know their is magic in the Minecraft soundtrack that goes beyond the game but that extends to C418's stand alone records too. This beastly one hundred minutes of new music felt like an exceptional stride forward from the strengths already established in his sound that may go unfortunately overlooked by the broader musical community. Its his best to date, a truly indulgent set of songs.

(4) Plini "Sunhead" link

This short twenty minute release is a fine example of curation at its best. With this cut Plini has delivered a gorgeous aesthetic treat of gleaming melodies spliced with chunks of groove and spicy instrumentation on all fronts that makes every second a delight to indulge in. Admittedly it slipped my mind however giving it another spin I hear that wonder and bliss is still firmly intact and charming.

(3) Ghost "Prequle" link

Ghost are one of my favorite modern Metal bands. With this release they flex their musicality into interesting avenues diverging from their roots and they do so with that brilliant ear for song writing at the core. They set them selves up for a great future with this album while simultaneously loading it with unforgettable songs to grace many future set lists. A lot of infectious choruses and grooves laden throughout.

(2) Turnstile "Space & Time" link

Turnstile have captivated me so much this year with their breed of Hardcore that seems to step out of the limitation of the genre while simultaneously maximizing its best attributes. Every time I put this record I find myself pumping fists, singing along infectiously and giving myself a potential case of whiplash! I cannot expressive enough how wonderful these short and animated songs are. Everything this band do just seems to be bordering perfection. Most the songs of this record is gem after gem.

(1) Kids See Ghosts "Kids See Ghosts" link

Guess what baby... I AM FREEEEE!!!!! Hahaha, It was a tough choice but Kanye and Kid Cudi take the top spot. Kids See Ghosts is a stunning collaboration where the two artists get the best from one another. Its sometimes psychedelic and exotic vibes are a refresher and much of what it offers feels like a river gushing creativity. Every track has its flavor and the seven play stunningly together. Its been one Ive gone back to over and over. It still sounds utterly fantastic and thus takes the top spot!

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Turnstile "Move Thru Me" (2016)


So I thought I was done with the back catalog of Maryland based Hardcore band Turnstile. Then I stumbled onto this four track EP for Pop Wig records. Released two years prior to their major label debut Space & Time it includes a song from that record split into two on Side A and another two fresh tracks to be enjoyed on Side B! It all comes from a different recording session that has a warm "live" feel to it. The drums are crisp, punchy with a healthy dose of reverb that other instruments share to give it this roomy lively feel. Its a big and spacious sound the instruments fill with clarity.

This four track doesn't showcase Turnstile's emerging eclecticism, all the songs are meat and bones Hardcore with a crunch and their curation for the best riffs and grooves. The songs new to my ears are on just about par with their current form. Move Thru Me deploys some gang shouts between pinch harmonics as big tom drums and guitar leads builds up the songs momentum through its two repeated sections to an almost big slam of the main riff at the end that's just an iteration of a drum pattern.

Its a somewhat lack luster conclusion but the following Fuck Me Blind makes marks with its dissipating lyrics of ideas, boundaries and liberties. Effeminate vocals feature in the "wash it all away" section as the song shifts into summery pop and grunge vibes of the 90s for an uplifting finish to an otherwise fast and energetic listen of aggression and empowering Hardcore attitude. Its a great little find to squeeze more from a band I am highly anticipating another great record from whenever that may be. Turnstile have definitely been a favorite new discovery for me this year!

Favorite Track: Fuck Me Blind
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 24 December 2018

Bloodbath "The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn" (2018)


Four years have passed since the bland and disappointing Grand Morbid Funeral. Death Metal supergroup Bloodbath have raised their game for a second record with singer Nick Holmes at the helm. Having enjoyed this new release so much I had to go back and give GMF a spin again, it quickly becomes obvious why this new record is far superior. The band have recaptured the musical spark that made their records from the naughties so memorable, the production too has an energy and ferocity in its grasp where as its predecessor was a dull and lifeless grind of uninspired, routine and bitter Death Metal. Far from the heights soared in their past.

Given that previous setback, I almost passed this one by! I am glad I did not, The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn brings the fun and flavor back to their music. The guitars are no longer scared to venture into grooving tangents and inflect characteristics a little of cuff for the brutal music, allowing the music to brood its atmospheres without constant excess. Its lead guitars rekindle those enigmatic bursts of twisted color that elevate and inspire conclusive climatic moments for its songs. The harmonization hits that sinister yet gleaming vibration, setting the tone for a proper Bloodbath record.

Its aesthetic are primed by distortion guitars frothing with a readiness from its thick, buzzing distortion tone that characters every note, lead and chord with a malevolent intensity. It fills and bleeds into the crevasses between instruments, an overpowering quality carefully managed as it nozzles the impact of its drums which sound permanently attached to the smothering buzz of this excessive guitar tone. It works but also means the riffs are king grabbing most of your attention and focus.

Its a guitar led record with a rare few compositions deterring from its lead. A couple of songs and sections slip past the quality filter, Levitator being one, sounding a grade behind its counterparts, a minor drawback. The majority of this record is firm and robust, a cutting selection of music good for the Bloodbath name but undoubtedly not their best work. The self awareness of its own ridiculousness seems to be ever more present with song names like "Chainsaw Lullaby" and it serves them well. Not taking it seriously lets the theatrics come to life. A far better record, I hope they keep this form.

Favorite Tracks: Bloodicide, Deader
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 21 December 2018

Can't Swim "This Too Won't Pass" (2018)


Last years Fail You Again was a peach! Now Can't Swim are swiftly back at it for round two with their sophomore record. They hit the ground running and kept going. Now there is a real contest between the two records because once again we have another solid set of songs you'll struggle to figure out your favorites from. This Too Won't Pass clearly steps in a brighter, pop direction with more tuneful singing and a generally lighter tone that can be heard in frequent acoustic guitar breaks and Emo, Pop Punk and Indie Rock strains in their sounds. It doesn't derive far from the blueprint at all and once again they challenge my conceptions of Genre's I'm less comfortable with as they pull off musical tropes with a touch of genuine class.

The record is wholly defined by its lyrical themes of breakups, heartaches and relationships. Chris LoPorto has a fantastic ability to channel his stories and musings into a catchy hook that resonates with the core of the song. It can be poetic, intelligent and blunt but more often a mix of all three. There is a fantastic chemistry at work, his words flow through the musical changes in temperament, always inline with the instrumental energy. Tracks like Amnesia 666 executes this with a stunning symmetry. Much like the instrumentals he exhausts a wonderful range of intensities with clean to screams consistently molding a unique persona for each track. The backup shouts and throaty yells of his band mates are not quite on his level. Bordering cringy at times but just about finding themselves on the right side of the line.

Much like their front man, his fellow musicians bring about a fantastic variety of intensity, color and charisma to flourish these themes into vivid visions with a ranged approach from the distortion guitars. They flex a whole range of chords, picking and strumming styles with varying degrees of overdrive that set distinct moods and compliment his words. The songs may have repetitive, simpler structures in places but the chemistry is so strong that each return of a riff or section feels as fresh as the play through before. The drummer also plays a key roll in fusing this all together with lively animated playing of grooves that flesh into the tom drums and livens up many of the chunky bass guitar grooves heard deeper in the mix.

For a record outside my comfort zone its quality really speaks volumes that the music transcends styles and themes I don't particularly vibe with. There are many objective moments where I heard something I wouldn't normally dig but these guys pull it off with true artistic intent and emotional meaning. Perhaps its just the open mind fighting old preconceptions. Either way I think it might be worth investigating more bands in this realm because if there are others as good as these guys I'm sold!

Favorite Tracks: My Queen, Hell In A Handbasket, Malicious 444, Amnesia 666, Winter Of Cicada
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Ho99o9 "Cyber Cop" (2018)


Horror, stylized Ho99o9, are one of the most exciting acts Ive heard in recent years, their fusion of hardcore Hip Hop, Industrial and Punk with an anarchistic flavor is exhilarating! This new soundcloud EP flew right under my radar, which is a shame because its probably their best work yet! They struck me as having potential but in this moment its really manifesting. Their recent collaboration with The Prodigy seems to of rubbed off well on the duo as the production style here has more composure and occasional Big Beat vibes. The opening track even has a tune you could lift into a Prodigy song. Its also another short and sweet seven songs amassing eighteen minutes. A curated approach to music that is serving many artists well in my books.

A clear theme and identity for the record is established through its fascinating online release including digital artwork. Cyber Cop revolves around digital paranoia in this connected ages and stylizes its songs as unauthorized viruses. It lets the electronic aspect of their sound flourish with flavorful synths and digital noise playing into the computing heart of the theme. Just about every song has talking points. The second track has a hard siren and glittery beat you might link to Death Grips, however its the vocals that almost sound like MC Ride himself chanting Internet Thuggin' in a low voice. Its a maddening orgy of noise which much of the record indulges in. Mega City Nine samples Slipknot's Only One and Tattered & Torn, fusing their darkly demented melodies with vicious street raps. Its a treat for a metalhead who loves crossover however its the Punk and Industrial influences that dominate the narrative here.

Punk Police brings the unapologetic attitude to the forefront as the two yell into peaked mics shooting back at their critics. Its a short track with dirty synths and gritty drums, total Punk aesthetic! Delete My Browser History slows down the tempo and brings in some gorgeous 90s Industrial synth baselines also heard on the opening track. Its focus on atmosphere heightens when twirling, snappy synths jive in, leading to an explosion of distortion guitars that culminates exquisitely. It ends with Leader Of Pain, an absolute banger to play at high volume! The singing is phenomenal. They fully embrace a over the top echo reverberation and deliver unhinged maniacal chanting over slamming guitar riffs. It only plays its sweet spot twice and the second time it suddenly cuts off short, always leaving me yearning for more of the madness.  

Ive only talked in specifics so far. This record conjures it own realm of anarchistic digital madness that's spurred on by an aggressive release of youthful energy and rebellion. Its immediate and fiery, an adrenaline shot to the mind as it takes on an aesthetic assault fit to diverge down different paths which it does! Not a moment repeated itself and the seven tracks forge a unique distinction within the experience. Thrashing guitars, expansive electronics and a relentless vocal presence unite with explosive chemistry. This is undoubtedly their best to date and my current addiction!

Least Favorite Track: Forest Fires
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

The Prodigy "No Tourists" (2018)


Many years on from their hay day, English Big Beat legends The Prodigy bring back their sound again for another round of 90s electronica mashed with booming drums beats on No Tourists, their seventh full length. The project was initially intended to be an EP but the quality of the music led them to a full length release that is noticeably shorter than The Day Is My Enemy. If it is curation or a short and sweet principle, this newest chapter definitely carries a more vibrant energy as it breezes by with a lively energy, charisma and focus on the big pounding drums that you'd expect of them.

The approach to sampling, electronics, melody and vocals all have a strong 90s feel, hailing back to their best era. Its not on par but their knack for jittery synths and the cramming together of intricate sounds to form a whole feels fluid and vibrant. Massive kicks and snares snap and pop throughout and the arsenal of accompanying sounds makes for a fury of body moving energy. Interestingly a collaboration with duo Ho99o9 stands out as an excellent moment where the two acts find a common ground to accommodate one another and produce the records most infectious song!

Beyond that one moment not much breaks expectations or deviates from form. Vocally the group focus more on the hooks and have their snippets on loops for the choruses. A lot of synth setups, tone, delivery and vocal samples hail back to their early days. If you know them well you will hear the links. This is The Prodigy delivering what fans want and if in the right mood it makes for a heck of a listen. Its far from original, a few spicy arrangements are in store but this is a full speed ahead, wild ride!

Favorite Tracks: No Tourists, Fight Fire With Fire, Champions Of London, Resonate
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Arks "Twins / Interface" (2018)


I was searching for the new Tesseract album but happily stumbled onto a record label based in the UK, distributing Drum N Bass music and just the sort I like! There is little to known of Arks but this two track release delves into the atmospheric side of the genre, dabbling with ambiguous spacial, glitched and industrial noises between the hard mechanical jive of the fast tempo beats. It comes together with an astral vibe fit for the mysterious night sky and all the wonder the stars may evoke, however it leans into the cold and heartless reality of the vast voids between sytems.

 Both songs are structured similarly. A hard backbone of tight crunching drum loops pop and snap on repetition as they set a cruising pace for an assortment of sampling to flavor the scene. Between the two a stiff baseline rumbles and both songs go through phases of build up, then dropping out the drums in the mid section to bring it back with the same set of accompanying samples. It ultimately feels rather linear and one dimensional with a lack of flair or oomph on its return to the main structure.

Its atmosphere building samples are devoid of melody. Shimmering noises flicker in and out of existence in a web of intricate sounds with an industrial edge, the likes of glass smashing and mechanical clicks and clanks, sparks and zaps paint the picture of foreign technologies. The main sounds are warping, morphing synths that rattle like a voice and on occasions sound similar to Dubstep wobbles. Its a decent pallet and approach for the vision it encompasses but with just two songs the repetition is a little nauseous. Great music, would prefer to enjoy it in a longer session of tracks.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, 17 December 2018

At The Gates "Slaughter Of The Soul" (1995)


Another musical journey comes to an end! It has been well worth the time and Ive come to understand why this band are so revered. They sit like a jewel in the heart of Melodic Death Metal, though it has to be said, The Red In The Sky Is Ours and With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness are praised more so their third and this. It is these two that possess the classic sound many bands have re-spun to their own flavor, a far brighter, palatable sound, easy to enjoy with gleams of melody between aggressive aesthetics. Slaughter Of The Soul is essentially the same sound as Terminal Spirit Disease, however it is an actual album lasting over the thirty minute mark.

With a string of fast and keen songs lingering around the three minute mark the music sprints its way through a deluge of riffs on a slick, crunchy, tearing guitar tone fit for chugging rapid rhythms and splicing infectious melody into the fold. Simple song structures and a keen ear for dynamism between groove and melodic surges let the music sway between the two worlds. It has to be said a lot of the riffing styles steer away from the brutality of Death Metal and sound more along the lines of Proto-Metalcore. I'm guessing these guys has an influence on that scene too given the similarities in riffing techniques heard on this record and before.

The aesthetic is pleasing, it comes together with a touch of gloss yet on closer inspection their is some grit in the guitar tone. Singer Lindberg's screams are the same crass, raspy howls as before yet something about how they are mixed in let his barks chime in, more so than tear through. This makes them quite likeable. The drums sound fantastic and snappy on a great sounding production that has held up over the two decades since. Obviously the music itself is king and At The Gates nail their style here. They also show off a little dexterity with a folk-ish acoustic guitar interlude, Into The Dead Sky, and a symphonic outro track lined with a drum beat. It shows off the genuine talent behind the music. Fantastic record!

Favorite Tracks: Slaughter Of The Soul, Suicide Nation, Unto Others
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Old Tower "...From The Dark Outlands" (2015)


With this dingy eleven minute release we wrap up our deep dive into the realms of Old Tower. In conclusion I luckily started from the sweet spot with The Rise Of The Scepter. All that came before has been lacking in artistic maturity but showing promise as obvious experiments in Dungeon Synth ideals forecast a potential charm. Dark Outlands, being the predecessor, has more elements falling into place as its foggy synths pair up with pounding castle drums in the beginning. The oomph is sucked out of them in this low fidelity setting yet the Dutch artist will go on to master this approach within later records. This is the true first inkling of whats to come.

These four sings, stitched together, meander through simple constructs of dusty, ancient synth tones attempting to tap into those spooky, esoteric and nostalgic vibes and to be fair, it gets their in some stretches. Its linear, often led by singular melodies but it musters far more atmosphere. This is definitely the better of the "demos", even its deep and shadowy brooding voices pack more of a punch as they rumble ambiguously in the backdrop. It gets to a slow start though as crows squawking and owl hooting in the rain make for a haphazard transition. Its mostly unremarkable but a good tone setter for lonely nights in the cold of night, lit by candles in stone corridors.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 14 December 2018

Marissa Nadler "For My Crimes" (2018)


Bleak, dreary, full of sorrow, this latest record from American singer, songwriter Marissa Nadler drags us through the dwelling of her melancholy. Disguised by a beautiful, timeless voice and soft, sombre acoustics the details of her torment and pain escape in this frightfully dark journey through personal and emotional struggles. Its calm, ethereal demeanor lures one in as strummed acoustic chords sing their harmony underneath her bare, vulnerable words. Mournful strings occasionally creep in as the songs grow, twisting tone and mood as they chime in with shadowing conclusions for her illustrious stasis of beautiful despair.

Its her lyrics that twist the knife. The instrumentals and her voice are poised in that precarious position, devoid of jollity, caught between beauty and sorrow, suspended in a timeless space of reflection turned to light. As one listens closer to her words moan a great sorrow as pain emerges, heartbreak, separation and distance ache sorely. Journeying deeper into its final tracks, the words take on darker tones as fractions of paranoia and an abusive relationship rears its ugly head through the poetry. It may be a far to literal interpretation on my part. Music as art can often be a ventilation that takes a different form on exit but her open and vulnerable singing within this ethereal state of reflection sends shivers down the spine. "You're only harmless when you sleep".

Its a moody, introspective record and that's what I like. I take great solace in these calming, shadowy records and as an artist she strikes me as the sort to channel this single part of herself. It culminates to a vivid and alluring state of hyper reality when opening up to the poetry of her words. I'm fondly reminded of Mazzy Star and Chelsea Wolfe listening to this newest release and also remember her music having a far more "happy" vibe. Its why I had not gotten into her records that deep before but this turn of pace since I last heard her just happens to be my cup of tea.

Favorite Tracks: For My Crimes, You're Only Harmless When You Sleep, Said Goodbye To That Car
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Paris "The Devil Made Me Do It" (1990)


Thanks to a fantastic documentary series on Netflix I got to learn about regional scenes that rarely make it to the forefront of Hip Hop discussion. Learning about the the bay area of San Fransisco, militant rapper Paris caught my ear with his uncanny resemblance to rap god Rakim. Given the year of its release, this makes perfect sense. Despite a lack of originality in tone and flow he makes his distinction with fiery, statement driven, political and pro-Islam rap. Its to the tune of Public Enemy and Lakim Shabazz, who's Pure Righteousness is sampled in the opening Scarface Groove song. The name dropping is relevant, Paris wears his influences on his sleeve as an amalgamation of key artists of this era. This extends to the production too, the beats present a firm flavor of Bomb Squad meets Eric B, with James Brown samples too. The sound essentially fits in a year behind contemporaries however this may be my prior knowledge not allowing Paris to slip into the correct spot in history. Then again, this is a really overlooked and forgotten record. Its only had a handful of re-pressings and is difficult to get a physical copy of.

Historical pickings aside, this is a strong record. He may have that firm and steady flow defined by Rakim but he executes it with attitude and flair for stringing coherent and tricky rhymes schemes others would stumble over. Its creative too, taking on a variety of flows and experimenting with reverb and rhymes split over multiple takes. It gives the record interesting creative tangents between the tried and tested formula. Lyrically its very socially conscious and pro-black political, taking on police brutality and systemic racism with an unapologetic militant approach. Short story telling interludes like Warning and The Hate That Hate Made flavor the songs with rich backstory as a couple of tracks step of the gas with braggadocio and other subject matter. Its the black nationalism that grabs the attention and if you agree with his perspectives or not, hes certainly a talent getting his view across.

A younger me would of lapped this up back in my 90s Hip Hop binge days. Now the style is so explored in my mind its hard for the beats to make much of an impact. One can't help but notice these gorgeous synth baselines though, the sort you might hear in Industrial music. That and DJ Mad Mike's love of scratching and sampling creates jarring instrumentals that pair beats and sources rigidly. The result aesthetic is it own and a clear vision for variety is forged as many cuts and variations make it onto the album, keeping its flow exciting alongside the shifting themes of Paris. The title track gets a shout for being a killer tune. A prime example of the records strengths in full cohesion. The beat is dark, gritty and bombastic, Its synth sampling takes on vibes not often heard in Hip Hop. This record isn't trying to charm you with smooth slick Jazz sounds, bar Mellow Madness, or overt grooves. It creates a crowded atmosphere built on punchy, snapy sounds that amount to sometinhg it can call its own, even if the building blocks are in plain sight.


Favorite Tracks: Scarface Groove, Brutal, On The Prowl, The Devil Made Me Do It, Mellow Madness
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Strapping Young Lad "The New Black" (2006)


Its been a real pleasure to dive back into the SYL discography. Its been over a decade since I last binged through their records and now we arrive at the final chapter. Despite having a vivid memory of getting this album and listening to it on a work break, not much of the music has stuck in my mind bar a few songs. In a similar way to their Self Titled release, The New Black doesn't come close to the apex of City. Its essentially a Devin Townsend record shaken up with many spices of aggression and occasional comedic measures. Arriving straight of the back of Alien I suspect this record had much to do with filling contract obligations as Devin decided to disband the group in co-ordination with its release and their final tour as a band.

The record gets off to a roaring start with fast paced tracks. You Suck sets a tone for comedy that makes many returns as the premise of the song revolves around saying a band "fucking sucks". Typical Devin humor! The New Black has a slightly withdrawn approach, a fun yet aggressive template with plenty of stomping guitar grooves and frantic, intricate drumming that can go full pelt on the listener or focus on the musicality. The records crisp production strips back the wall of sound feel even though its a fairly bolstered sound, a collection of overwhelming collisions of noise where everything is dialed up get through but despite this, the record just feels lighter and that is probably due to its meandering second half where the moods expand.

In the first we have Wrong Side, a very domineering tack with its heavy synth presence and with Dev's soaring clean vocals it launches itself into Ziltoid territory which he was working on at the time. With Far Beyond Metal we have a studio version of an old live song from No Sleep To Bedtime. Its an anthem, fit for headbanging and giggles! After that the side of Devin we hear more in the solo material comes to light. Almost Again being a keen example, it sounds like Holgen had to really ramp up the drumming patterns to make it feel at home. One can hear the disproportion in balance as Dev's glorious singing pulls it in another direction. When he does erupts with roaring screams Holgen gets frenetic trying to match the increase in intensity, its quite impressive to hear him keep up.

Compared to the rest of their discography this feels like a clear ending point as Dev's other musical directions strongly influence the lengthy thirteen tracks. Its also a great example of how inspiration can be channeled through different aesthetics and approaches as many moments are interchangeable to differing intensities from the all guns blazing mentality SYL usually have. The big point to make is the obvious directional shifts don't detract from quality and give the album a depth in variety others don't. It also has a fair few unleashing of the signature mania where the music gets so loud you can hear the frequencies drown each other out in the wake of massive sub drops. Its a fine note to sign off an amazing journey on.

Favorite Tracks: Antiproduct, Wrong Side, Far Beyond Metal, Fucker, Almost Again, The New Black

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Turnstile "Step 2 Rhythm" (2013)


 Kicking off with a flavorful shimmer of western guitar tint over big theatrical chords, Step 2 Rhythm gets moving with a lick fit for a 90s tv theme song, just energeized. It switches back and forth between this uplift and the grit of guitar throw downs as the Hardcore riffs shred their power chord grooves. Its the first sign of an eclectic direction for the band and in brief instances it rises again through exotic Metal guitar leads and the outro. Otherwise thats about it. Despite this direction potentially manifesting into what I adore about Turnstile, this short twenty minute EP doesn't quite have the energetic charm of is successor Pressure To Succeed within the Hardcore department, which it primarily plays in tune to.

The opening stir of emotions is to early in its infancy to become anything other than a notable derivative at work. This is a straightforward record for the most part. The band go hard on guitar led grooves of power chord chugging set to slam on the floor as the drums crash in with appropriate half times and the vocals cry out with fiery aggression. Its fairly atypical and the reality is these feel like the b-sides to a better volume of work. Canned Heat bangs when the slam kicks in with a big group shout. Bar that one moment much of the songs felt reasonable but far from the magic Ive heard so far on other albums. It leaves me with little to say other than its been a fun listen but not to much to take away in comparison.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 10 December 2018

In The Woods... "Cease The Day" (2018)


It was a huge surprise to learn of an In The Woods... reunion two years back. After sixteen years on ice, three of the original band mates reunited to create Pure, a close contender for My Top Albums Of 2016. I was pleased to see them write a follow up so quickly but disappointed to learn the Botteri brothers both quit the band, leaving just the drummer left. How much influence Anders Kobro has over the music may be irrelevant. This in no departure of style and a record I have enjoyed my time with. Cease The Day scales up its progressive scope, builds scenic pagan atmospheres and makes hints to its themes with an Elk stranded among the city lights.

Once again Fogarty's voice serves as the human spirit to soar above with a heathen heritage calling. Its an authentic performance, honest and striving, retaining his imperfections and charming with his strengths. He is central to the musics direction, chiming in with many of its peaks and the general flow. Its more occasional that other instruments become the central focus. Cloud Seeder lays down some narrow groove guitar licks before unleashing a ear worm melody with effects soaked lead guitar that wails in different keys. The songs chord progressions remind me fondly of Baroness.

The eight tracks are mostly lengthy epics that don't outstay their welcome and unfold with steady captivation. I'm astonished as to how often subtle tone shifts are within their expansive pallet, even some that call upon their past. Somehow between Psychedelic overtones and brooding atmospheres can they splice in Black Metal guitar riffs with a chirpy, jolting distortion aesthetic that hails back to their debut record. The same can be said of the synths using similar choral and choir chords which arise in an instant to enrich the scene at hand.

On casual listening one will be sucked in to these vivid soundscapes and journeys. Yet on closer exception you may notice the organic experience is comprised of rather jarring and bold shifts in both tone and style as the eclectic links at work here jostle in variation along with its instruments. Strike Up With Dawn opens on a rotation of power chord rock guitar before flicking a switch and hurtling into a shrill tremolo shredding of darkness as gloomy synths arise. In another flick they drop and we move into an estranged, lone groove guitar lick reinforced by horned instruments.

This is just one example of what occurs frequently throughout, many yearnings of influence and musical approaches mashed into one form that feels very natural and pleasing. For all my enjoyment I never felt any big peaks, crescendos or exceptional moments. Perhaps Transcending Yesterday comes close with its monstrous opening riffs and howling screams but my attention is often diverted to the mix of a live audiences cheers into the song, ending with a chant of the bands name. I'm just not sure what exactly I'm supposed to make of it. Really solid album, hard to pick favorites, its great as one long big song.
 
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Old Tower "The Door" (2015)


Still with another record between them, this release marks a link to the slow and burly, meditative The Rise Of The Scepter, a first of true quality from the Netherlands artist Old Tower. However this third album, The Door, lacks the grandiose, vision or magic yet to come. It is however a lesson in atmosphere and ambience as we step away from clunky compositions of dusty synths yearning towards ancient vibes. Its a rather uneventful affair as ambiguous, soft synths gently moan, drifting in and out of focus over the occasional deep murmuring of bass. No melody is formed, just an ever shifting pallet of smokey, shimmering synths like fairy lights dancing in the fog with no rhythm or pattern to direct their expression.

It works as background music, setting a pleasing tone with its calming presence but no real vision comes to mind. It is simply fluffy noise to fill the space of mind and allow one to concentrate on other tasks. That is when I enjoyed this record the most. Its soft murmuring simply aided focus yet thinking and writing about it objectively I release it is rather weak when in focus. Towards the end the aesthetics shift into a shadowy gear as big, groaning reverberations play out like calls from the dark. With this it musters more interest but the overall project is bland and yet a sign of a change in approach that will ultimately lead to great music as Old Tower evolves.

Rating: 3/10

Thursday, 6 December 2018

The Smashing Pumpkins "Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun" (2018)


Long since their glory days of Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie, my excitement for a new Pumpkins project has been mixed with worry. The possibility of a resemblance to Billy's solo album Ogilala and an over bloated, insignificant album title overshadows the return of James Iha. I doubt he has little to do with the writing of the music but he performs on the wax and I was hopeful his presence would have an influence. The record makes its distinction as a band far from there hay day while rather fondly resurrecting the semantics of their glory years. Its opening two tracks sound like a time warp to the nineties as Corgan unites his emotional, melodic Alt Rock guitar flexing with his niche style of sung hook to captivate in the choruses.

Like a looking glass peering into the past, the rosy tint of nostalgia lays out a path that each song walks with familiarity to their back catalog. I don't think a single track felt new or unique but rather clever re-hashes of old ideas and occasionally slipping off the edge of tolerance with cries of "she stabs the anti clock" and Travels "its where I belong" sounding somewhat hollow. It is otherwise a cracking record with beautiful, glossy and scenic music composed of humble instruments playing to one anothers strengths. The voice of Corgan sits snugly in the middle singing his heart led lullabies and its forms with keen melody and a bit of guitar grit driving songs forward in various phases.

For all it does well something doesn't stick with this record. Its got a gorgeous production, everything sounding alive and of its moment, the string sections and keys add a serine warmth when they rise but despite all this Its strongest moments feel shades from former classics and its more "original" songs sound flat in comparison. Its been a tough one to put into words and Ive found what songs ill be returning to here again so I'll leave it alone on that ambiguous note.

Rating: 6/10
Favorite Tracks: Knights Of Malta, Silvery Sometimes, With Sympathy

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Anaal Nathrakh "A New Kind Of Horror" (2018)


I first heard of this band through the ripples of the UK Metal scene as a contender for the Scandinavian Black Metal outfits who blossomed the genre, while us islanders had little to offer. Ive never paid close attention since their early records but felt an itch to see what they are up to. They have evolved, as has the times and with some truly extreme ideas. Its a Black Metal record at its core, dressed up in disgust and depravity as the Birmingham duo push their musical vision downwards with harsh menacing aesthetics to raise the stakes in this conjuring of decadent, violent filth.

Its a tried and true Black Metal record with flavors of the American scene but it grabs attention for the vile extremities that first confront the listener in a cacophony of blast beats and grinding guitars accompanied sinister string sections and other various assaults of dissonance. As it builds its presence I can't help but notice how distinct the vocal style is. It plays this way throughout the record, roaring screams, blunt and raw yet somehow decipherable. They constantly peak the volume for effect and quite often spiral out of control into literal primal screams of anger and hatred. It can grow a little tiresome given the unrelenting viscous force the music exhausts.

As the record gains momentum the aesthetic experiments play like torture. Maniacal sounds and shrill possessed singing akin to Mercyful Fate soar with ferocity. When we arrive at Forward! the sounds of Glitch, Dubstep and Djent collide in an obnoxious pummeling of groove aligned to the firing of machine gun fire and shotgun blasts. Its a riot and from that point everything feels a fraction behind this peak of insanity. The record then brings in some symphony and melody to soften the blow as some drilling tremolo picking leads, power chord arrangements and chugging Djent grooves take spotlight as the aesthetic overdrive becomes far more expectant.

A New Kind Of Horror is a real race of the cliff. Vile and malicious it pushes hard at the hardened listeners with its overwhelming flood of evil noise out to punish everyone in its way. It lacks moments of respite and without truly captivating melodies or riffs it circles its own waters, each song failing to reach some sort of peak or rise to wedge in the mind but that is preference and overall I think its a fair effort. Reminds me of Cavalera Conspiracy in ways as there are ideas here that also push things forward in an obvious way. Its a dense record, lots on offer, great if it clicks with you.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Strapping Young Lad "SYL" (2003)


Needing an outlet to vent his post-911 emotions and anger, the Canadian musician reunited the band after a four year hiatus. The resulting SYL, effectively self titled, is the most notably akin to Devin Townend's solo records. Its heavy on the electronics in a layered sense as many guitar riffs are backed by beams of bright synth erupting through the wall of sound. With a lack of Industrial grit and maniacal energy, bar an explosive dose on Rape Song, it occasionally looses the unique Strapping vibe as some guitar sections feel interchangeable with other extreme bands. That's not put the record down, its solid from start to end and a delightful exercise in heavy heavy's sake. The problem is its extremities are not up to par with the likes of City and Alien.

It does however rattle off a timeless classic with Aftermath, a song that strips back groove to its simplest form and hammers it out in repeating cycles of amplified intensity. Its pounding, tribal, primitive and when breaking away from its obnoxious guitar chugging, goes full throttle on blast beats and wall of sound ecstasy. The following Devour is another riot of feverish excess that boasts its own obnoxious one note "breakdown" riff in its mid section. It starts out steady, misleading us as with its temperament before being unleashed. A lot of the record doesn't quite reach thees fiery peaks but it is certainty a wild ride and full of foaming anger.

Across its duration Dev explores a pallet of ideas, ranging from big, dense walls of chorals both blinding and uplifting. His vocals often come of a bit raspy as his delivery shifts. When the guitar is most naked is when the record feels a little to regular for this band and there are a couple of riffs that perk my ears, sounding akin to some techniques and riffing styles heard years later in the Deathcore scene. Its probably just a resemblance Ive picked up on but it makes me wonder about SYLs impact on future musicians as this was their first "commercial success" breaking into billboard record sales charts... only barely. With so much to say about their classic records this one lives in the shadows a little, not managing to match up all of the time.

Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Dire, Aftermath, Devour, Force Fed

Friday, 30 November 2018

Tyler The Creator "Music Inspired By Illumination & Dr. Seuss' The Grinch" (2018)


Lets cut to the chase, this musical project is fantastic! Coming off the back of last years critically acclaimed Scum Fuck Flower Boy, a similar instrumental pallet is put to use on this Christmas EP that lasts only ten minutes. Every second however is lean and slender, a genuine Xmas record that balances the festive theme with its classy persona wonderfully. Quite often it is just the suggestion alone that makes you notice the season. It seems Tyler was genuinely inspired to make music for the new Grinch movie, of which two additional songs appear on its soundtrack.

With bright shiny synthesizers, punchy warm baselines and stuttering goofy Hip Hop percussion, Tyler composes cheerful music without forcing the mood or overtly wording a holiday theme. Instead he lets his guest vocalists Ryan Beatty and Santigold set the tone with endearing Pop & R&B vibes before dropping in with gentle wholesome raps about returning home to a loved one and pouring hot chocolate with cinnamon on top. Santigold lays down the hooks and Ryan soars with ascending notes reminiscent of Micheal Jackson when hes adding in a backdrop layer of vocals.

The tone is sublime and on closer inspection festive pianos, wintry bells and cascading strings deploy some more expectant holiday melodies but all tuned in with one another. There is a smooth, joyous cohesion, the chemistry and quality of the compositions outpaces any of the drag that comes from seasonal cheers and lets this project occupy a classy, soothing spaces that's indulgent, relaxing and really wholesome. I'm truly impressed, would love for more. Ten minutes is not enough!

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Old Tower "The Book Of Ages" (2015)


 Now we arrive at the roots, a debut release for Dutch wizard Old Tower. Fourteen minutes of creaky, fumbling Dungeon Synth. Amateur and hazardous in nature, its futile attempts to conjure atmosphere and mystique fall flat on the back of inexperience and lack of vision. Its a typical entry level record similar to many who have stepped into the genre with the likes of Mortiis and Burzum on the mind. With spurious shifts between often singular, low fidelity synth tones the music drifts from one to the next with little beyond its imitations to grasp at. Its cuts to deep foreboding voices, far to ambiguous for comprehension signal a narrative that alludes me.

It does in one or two moments match a key tone to its spooky aesthetic for moments of intrigue. Its attempt to cast a soundscape of medieval battle with the sounds of burning fires and swords clashing reminded me of my own folly into similar ideas with the end of Eternal Myst from my Forgotten Conquest album. It puts to mind my own personal experience adventuring into Dungeon Synth and how my own passion may not be conveyed in amateurish enthusiasm. As harsh as Ive been there is no doubt passion was put into this project and its second half does shape up better but overall its forgettable and I'm glad I didn't start here as great things were to come.

Rating: 2/10

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Strapping Young Lad "No Sleep Till Bedtime" (1998)


I thought I might pass this record by as I often do with live albums but seeing the the additional two tracks left over from Heavy As A Really Thing, I figured why not? Pretty swiftly was I reminded of how brilliant live recordings can be. It kicks off on a sweet note as Devin sings us into the madness with a choral arrangement to lead into the opening two from City. Its as vibrant and vivid as the studio records. The guitars, drums, bass and vocals have an exuberant energy, making a ferocious racket! Their performance is swell and behind them a dense layer of synths and industrial aesthetics seem firmly intact, probably the same tracks lifted from the studio. Its hard to imagine that level of nuance and required cohesion working in the live setting.

Our god Devin Townsend's singing is phenomenal. Now a lone voice without production magic at his aid, his fierce screams, leaping roars, soaring cries and immaculate clean singing feels both immediate and necessary as the performance drags you into the heart of the emotional experience he draws from. As the show progresses Devin never tires and between songs when talking to the crowd his comedic nature and ridicule of the spectacle shows fondly with humorous lines and jokes for the crowd. Its most so on Far Beyond Metal, a track from The New Black I forgot used to be a live only track. It is the least Lad sounding of all but clearly more suited for them than his solo material and a vessel for his cheese.

After a riveting seven songs it ends with that song as the tape runs out. A fade out without talk of goodbyes and audience cheers is a bummer but it would been more of a shame to of ruled out the release of this excellent live set. To fill the void Japan and Centipede revere their heads as songs clearly a peg lower on the frenetic, chaotic scale that Dev rammed to the max with the first SYL record. Both are sprawling atmospheric types that subvert their bombastic riffs and sustain a sense of heightened atmosphere. Centipede is the chunkier of the two with a bigger guitar presence and moments of elevated intensity but they both suffer from poor quality as static and peak clipping plagues the crowded moments. Its not too much of a bother, so overall its a really great listen for any SYL fan! Shame the live show was cut short.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Vince Staples "FM!" (2018)


Ive been keenly awaiting the next Vince Staples project. As a rapper he is a fair talent but on the instrumental front he is rocking a fresh sound that draws in some strong House and Dance music influences to Hip Hop. This newest record FM! has some interludes and snippets of a radio show that gloss a theme on top of stellar songs. At a mere twenty two minutes most the tracks are short and given the repetitive nature of lopped instrumentals this swift record whizzes by. It always ends too soon, leaving you wanting another immediate spin as its infectious beats linger in the mind.

At the surface, the beats took most my attention. Vince puts engaging hooks over the top and his rhymes are tight, often delivered with a slightly slurred swagger. It gives his flows a liquidity as his sentences ooze and the words sway to form an shapely cadence. His inflections are slightly nasal and the nature of his flow lets his lyrics gel with these keen beats. When he exaggerates the words they often morph into memorable hooks. Relay's "scanner and hammer" as "skinner and himmer" just works despite being skewed. Its all chemistry but digging deeper into his words theirs a lot of vivid lyricism skimmed down to a point. At times it can be a dark ride along.

These instrumentals by Kenny Beats pop! Tight snaps, claps and snares bounce and groove off sub bass kicks doubling as low end melodies, shifting through multiple pitches. Between them textured hi hats rattle in fast shuffles, spaced generously on stereo. The space often occupied by samples are a treat of quirky, synthetic spaced out melodies, often minimal, taking advantage of minimalism and the textures available. Its got the grit of the streets, yet can drift to the estranged and exotic. Of course these moods find their way to banging hooks too as Vince cries out to each of the sides "who bout that life" as the calls drift to death and darkness swiftly.

I adore this project. Its all about quality over quantity however its glossed over radio theme feels a distance to the meat of Vince's lyrics. Its interlude tracks are inconsequential and mediocre at best. They fluff up an extra couple of minutes and the Earl Sweatshirt hype track is an underwhelming twenty seconds. With Kanye, Pusha T and quite a few other artists releasing short projects this year it seems like a positive trend. I'm really glad Vince took this approach and the final track is a peach with Kehlani Parrish bringing powerful effeminate singing to the fold. Great record!

Favorite Tracks: Relay, Run The Bands, No Bleedin, Tweakin
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Turnstile "Pressure To Succeed" (2011)


My praise and adoration for this band is growing fast. Listening backwards from the heights of Space & Time I expected a decline but the reality is their evolution as a somewhat eclectic band started in a strong place. Without their expanded pallet of styles we land on the origin point of pure energetic Hardcore aggression fondly reminiscent of Biohazard and Dog Eat Dog. This is their debut release, a short EP of six songs spanning fifteen minutes. Its all killer no filler, the formula is straight forward and to the point. Stomping rhythm guitars patrol, slamming drums reinforce the dynamic shifts between fast and mid tempos to give the beat downs a grooving edge. Brendan Yates stands out front with higher pitched yells and shouts to rile up the adrenaline as his words often queue in the shifts from one temperament to the next.

With very little beyond the scope of expectation it boils down to the quality of guitar riffs that lead the way and boy do they have the eminence to thrown down hard. The whole music can't be about punch line riffs and break downs. Their verse and build up riffs, all the bits in between, keeping the energy flowing with a disposition for excellence. Sometimes it seeps out with some prominent baselines and discordant guitar sections too. Best of all two songs embolden the tone with a very particular flavor of guitar lead I can't quite pin down, it reminds me fondly of Swedish Metal and stands out over the rest of the music, adding a new moody dimension of expression. That and the utterly riveting slam sections for the dance floor are buzzing on this record. Pressure To Succeed makes a feast out of its short duration. Great debut!

Favorite Track: New Rules, Pressure To Succeed
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Fief "IV" (2018)


A joyous smile swept across my face upon receiving news of this forth chapter by Medieval Fantasy musician Fief. Despite being a predictable set of instrumental songs, the knowledge of new music to command the imagination and transform ones surroundings was precisely what I was in the mood for. Seven songs, twenty eight minutes and illustrious harp-like instruments dancing in display, this newest installment leaves me with little to say I haven't already.

Once again we have uplifting melodies played on a variety of gleaming string instruments. Several layers of these form acute and splendid music that frolics through an innocence lost to time. Always keen of spirit and festive, Fief brings about visions of enchanted gardens, natural beauty and adventure without consequence. The wholesome melodies conjure our romanticism towards the best of kingdoms and landscapes lost to the perils of time.

Clearly composed with VSTs and a dose of soft reverbs, the crisp production lets the color of the instruments fill the spaces. A simple and pleasing construct for melodies one could imagine being played for kings and queens of forgotten monarchs. It is as keenly focused on one vision as its predecessors. No surprises. However the closing tracks guitars, playing in tandem, sparks a strong emotional reaction, perhaps it is a tad more exceptional than the rest.

Favorite Track: The Waiting Hearth
Rating: 6/10