Saturday, 18 May 2019

Little Simz "Grey Area" (2019)


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

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

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

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

Friday, 17 May 2019

Alice In Chains "Dirt" (1992)


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

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

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

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

Rating: 10/10

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Green Lung "Woodland Rites" (2019)


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Tool "10,000 Days" (2006)


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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Alice In Chains "Sap" (1991)


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

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

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

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

Friday, 10 May 2019

Death Fortress "Triumph Of The Undying" (2017)


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

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

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

Rating: 4/10

Monday, 6 May 2019

Arkhtinn "V" (2017)


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

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

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

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

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Alice In Chains "Facelift" (1990)


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

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

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

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

Friday, 3 May 2019

Periphery "Periphery IV Hail Stan" (2019)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Ruido-mm "Rasura" (2014)


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

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

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

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

Monday, 29 April 2019

Hexenkraft "The Infernal Schism" (2017)


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

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

Favorite Track: Diabolus Ex Nihilo
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Queen "Sheer Heart Attack" (1974)


Its been another eye... or should I say ear opening record from a band already enamored with global legendary status. Diving into their records has shun a light upon the depths of their brilliance and highlighted what a diverse and eclectic group of musicians they really are. Its something rather uncommon at the peaks of popular music. Sheer Heart Attack is Queen's third full length, proceeded by their magnum opus A Night At The Opera. The two share a common identity, thirteen tracks, around forty minutes of music and songs adopting a similar molding cast within an equally theatrical run through of their opposing ends of style and genre.

Brighton Rock kicks the record off with a glorious Freddie Mercury reaching into the peaks of his range with a pinched voice, harmonizing with the organically unfolding set of riffs alongside him. Its captivating and as the song builds its persona and structure they turn and loosen up into a set of miniature guitar solo licks before taking over the music entirely with a tangent of riff rocking, guitar jamming and tight pick chugging grooves that sound practically Proto-Thrash in snippets. Its a Heavy Metal delight.

It pivots into the classic Killer Queen, the pianos gleam a fun jollity from their chords. Its in contrast to the buzzing energy before it and somehow it works... That's what Queen do! A few other tracks feels more so from a mold, Roger Taylor gets the third song again, Tenement Funster. Perhaps its his voice but the song is uncanny in comparison to the feel of I'm In Love With My Car. Its a lightning start, aligned with an unending source of groove and sweet licks from Brian May's brilliant input.

After this point the record finds its theatrical and pantomime breaks in flow through Freddies songs, Lilly Of The Valley, Lap Of The Gods and Bring Back That Leroy Brown. The best union of these contrasting sides is to be found on Stone Cold Crazy, a hard hitting Heavy Metal track with some seriously gripping guitar work that rubs right up against Mercuries performance antics, jiving of the fast clicking percussion. The transitions are sublime, bottled lightning unleashed as the guitars drop fiery harmonies, scattered with infectious attitude all over the place.

Unlike its proceeding record, Sheer Heart Attack doesn't quite have the dynamics. The bands eclecticism bounces of the walls but there are moments of magic left right and center where it comes together. Brian May's guitar work has been a revelation. Their is so much on this record you could link to the future of Metal music to come and in this form its utterly riveting. His use of effects with echos and reverberations is particularly satisfying. I prefer the songs here individually but as an album its a shade behind the flow of their best work.

Favorite Tracks: Brighton Rock, Killer Queen, Tenement Funster, Stone Cold Crazy, Misfire
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 26 April 2019

Arkhtinn "IV" (2017)


It felt like a blessing to have finally stumbled upon another band emulating the shivering abyss of existential dread Darkspace once conjured. It immediately caught my ear once I heard the distinct lack of high range frequency and a claustrophobic aesthetic. The same tropes are deployed, bass and distortion guitars meld with relentless blast beats to form a nauseating force of ambiguous dark pummeling. Its discernible nature is its mystique, setting the tone for synths to rise from the deathly depths and plunge the listener through a sense of cascading epic that I simply adore.

This mysterious French bands albums are all free to devour on bandcamp. I decided to start here at the forth installment because the first free have raw and ropy production, too much for my tastes. This record, like all the others, comprises of two similar length songs. The first twenty minutes are the evil ecstasy and the second half a Dark Ambient piece of droning sounds relishing in their ambiguous form. Tension is mounted and sustained as an atmosphere of unease gets conjured by these soft and eerie drones that creek and groan over the soft underlying organ alike synth tone. Its brooding, frightful and slightly dystopian.

The Black Metal song is mainly kicked along by its underbelly of rising synth that queues all the musical shifts. Its chord changes feel like a revelation as the suspense of the unending pummeling is pivoted to new heights without changing its onslaught. The guitar work finds its roll in tremolo picking scaling melodies that rise and fall with menace. Towards the latter stages the song breaks up the flow with chunky rhythm guitar chugging, much like Darkspace do. After that point the darkness seems to ponder on the same intensity and lacks a gratifying conclusion.

The vocals are a treat too, mean beastly growls and shrill harrowing screams are elongated consistently. They have a traditional edge but the reverberations and low fidelity capturing lets them slip right into the sound design as another layer of despair. The record is a real pleasure, to finally have something new from a niche I adore. I particularly love the astral, spacial feel of the music. With a keen ear one can hear the glistening of stars flickering as glimmers of glossy synth barely peaking through the wall of utterly ferocious sound. Great record, can't wait for the next installment.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Hexenkraft "Hexenkraft" (2016)


With the discovery of Hexenkraft Ive stumbled upon one musicans diabolical answer to the retro inspired Synthwave scene. The music already tends to lean towards shadows given its origins in 80s Horror through the soundtracks of John Carpenter. Dance With The Dead embody that spirit and others like Dan Terminus takes it in a night life, cyber punk direction. This project however takes a clear inspiration from video game Doom with its satanic iconography and similarities to the soundtrack.

Its "evil" inspiration is far more thematic than felt, the record deploys no low fidelity ambiguity, wretched screaming or ripping guitars. It turns in the opposite direction, its synths cut hard buzz saw waves with instantaneous attacks and minimal decays for harsh envelopes to deliver a punchy, snappy, high octane experience of electronics. It initially turned me off, the aesthetics came across sterile and clinical but through its construct does emerge a sense of atmosphere and partially devilish semantics.

 The music has a core of firm tempo drum patterns that rattle off slick, hard, thumping percussive aesthetics over a triad or more of basslines. They groove in the form of razor sharp waves toting dexterous, textural oscillations off one another. Its a driving force in the low range that leaves room for its lead synths to queue in the melody and direction in the spaces above. Once again its achieved with slick and pristine wave forms, often transitioning through some form of phase effect on its journey.

The Hexenkraft name and evil intention is a little overplayed in comparison to the musics tone. Its final of four tracks does strike a nerve with an audio sample, probably from a horror movie. Two figures exchang dialog of diabolic inspiration and the ferocity of the possessed individuals voice brings a menace and danger the instrumentals don't muster on their own. Its been a fun listen but the name and nefarious artwork oversells itself in comparison to what other artists have done with this theme.

Favorite Track: Inspirati A Diabolo
Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Living Colour "Biscuits" (1991)


When it comes to music I am somewhat of a completionist, which leads me too this disposable EP released between albums. It also means a negative blog post, something I am not fond of. Here we have six tracks, comprising of five unreleased songs, three of them performed live and my favorite Living Color song Desperate People, also live. Each track seems to be scared by some jarring feature that taints the whole experience to a rushed throwaway. Two of the tracks feature scratching samples with a generic 80s rawness. Its hard and mixed in over the rest of the music for a disparaging equilibrium that stains mediocre songs with an unfinished feeling. The second of these had potential however. Its Ska basslines and esoteric, dreary, gothic guitars muster interest that's interrupted by tone deaf scratching.

The live performance of Desperate People from Vivid has all the enthusiasm and electricity of a wild show but the music is overplayed, too many variations and additional guitar noise gives an impression of the band getting to into the energy of playing and sacrificing a lot of fidelity. Further into the song Glover falls off key and it doesn't paint a good sell for the live show. On another tracks he moans and groans into the mic in a way that never sounds quite right... I could go on but you get the point, the quality here is sub par and with some bold annoyances on the project it just feels like a quick hash of material pulled together without much thought.

Rating: 2/10


Friday, 19 April 2019

Sleepy Sun "Embrace" (2009)


With greatness among my expectations, a step back to the debut record from Californian Psychedelic Rock outfit Sleepy Sun has felt like one too. Lurking in the shadows of Fever, this album was initially underwhelming in its similarities, the same sword swung with a duller blade. Many of the same key shifts, chord arrangements and harmonies occupy a well established aesthetic that runs parallel. Its jam sections, indulgences with noise and unwinding atmospheres pool from the same source yet despite wanting more of that Fever magic, it isn't quite here. I can't put my finger on the distance, is it familiarity? The folly of working in reverse? After a myriad of attempts with this record I make peace with my mediocre enjoyment of it.

The band have a beautiful aesthetic in some compositions, a soothing persuasion, soft and warm vocal phrases, gentle dusty guitars and a measured percussion that adds up to a subtle psychedelic intoxication. They also like to lean brazen on dirty distortion tones in the energetic swells of madness. It is that aspect that didn't pull off so well on this record. Its hypnotic tracks like Golden Artifact gleam in the light but the grit and gristle of mean fuzzy overdriven tones sound loose and unfocused on the other end of the spectrum with a song like Redblack.

The album doesn't get much of a flow going with the disharmony of their abrasive side interrupting the swells of mood and atmosphere some passageways cultivate. White Dove does a great job at defining an equilibrium as its opposites converge on a mighty grooving guitar riff but its lengthy nine minutes journey looses structure delving into a tangent that doesn't lead anywhere. Ive tried my best with this one and despite much similarity it feels like the musics core is missing something the next record will gain in abundance! For now I will move forward to their third.

Favorite Tracks: Lord, Golden Artifact
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Czarface & Ghostface "Czarface Meets Ghostface" (2019)


There back and this time the trio team up with another Wu-Tang Clan member, non other than Ghostface Killah! Who many consider the greatest talent to emerge from the collective. This new chapter, themed loosely around classic comic book vibes again, looses a little freshness from the lack of surprise in its tone and demeanor. The instrumentals bring tight percussive grooves on loops with steady sampling and arrangements to set a tone complimentary to the theme. The voicing of heroes and villains in dialog has the most impact but the beats never muster much gusto to spark imagination, they are mostly reliant on darkly vibes from the sampling selection.
 
On this record its the rhymes that are king and there is a lot of meat to chew through in its compact forty minutes. Ghostface and Inspectah Deck go hard with endless strings of coherent and intelligent rhymes, his Czarface collaborator deploys flows very akin to Jay-Z in spots. The Wu-Tang pair are consistent in quality, spitting like the veterans they are. Flows are slick, rhymes are smart and witty and across the record a handful of lines stick in the mind. It is however Inspectah who edges out his guest. You might expect Ghostface, the more acclaimed rapper, to have the best material but it didn't seems so. Its another collection of firm beats and creative raps which doesn't leave me with anything drastic to comment on, it was a good listen however the instrumentals could of raised the game but otherwise time well spent.

Favorite Track: Masked Superstars
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 15 April 2019

Living Colour "Time's Up" (1990)


There was no way I wouldn't pick up another album after discovering Vivid. Its a wonderful debut from the New York band who were fusing genres and setting the sound for 90s Alternative Metal. My excitement brewed when I read this album won a Grammy! That was quickly dispelled on first listen as the production feels a grade lower. The album has a looser, rawer sound, it opens fire with a rattling snare and speedy guitar pummeling that leans towards Thrash Metal. Its a brief moment of intensity that focuses attention on the overall rawer feeling of the record, its drums a fraction more spacious and its busying bass guitar sounds muffled and muddied when in steps up for action. Its energy and charisma comes together with a looseness.

In getting to know the record, a strange feeling of sideways progression emerges. The songs all have the same components, bold and bright, gleaming influences of Metal, Punk, Funk and Hip Hop melding in the cooking pot. This time around its as if they have taken the formula and re-arranged the elements, rather than sharpening or refining its composition. The resulting collection of tracks are rather miss matched in quality, the best of their output seems to revolve around singer Corey Glover and if he can pull of a hook or ear worm chorus. Pride does this wonderfully, with the band laying down a sweet track for his voice to resonate and send goosebumps your way.

There is a distinct shift in the albums topicality. The same social, cultural, economic and racial themes that felt personal and expressive seem spun up in a more commanding and actionable tone as the album is loaded with talking points and statements that stretch from the personal to the political with a broadened attitude. It becomes rather uncomfortable on the safe sex track Under The Cover Of Darkness. It has the tone of a government social influence project, with Queen Latifah dropping in headstrong, empowering lyrics but with that cliche 80s/90s plain flow rap. Unfortunately it has such an orchestrated feeling as she doesn't gel with the track.

The record has many strong moments and engaging arrangements. A wide variety of tones, genre splicing and ideas play out with plenty of grooving riffs and blazing, finger splitting solos but its usually one element firing at a time. The overall themes of these tracks don't come together to often and it play with a patchy flow because of that. Its short intermissions don't offer much either and I'm left feeling lukewarm on the record and wondering if the Grammy was in turn for such an amazing debut.

Favorite Tracks: Pride, Elvis Is Dead, Type, This Is The Life
Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Örnatorpet "Hymner Från Snökulla" (2019)


I've held off from this record a while. Blodbad Och Efterspel was a great listen but I couldn't say the same of other Örnatorpet releases. Once I did get around, I was quickly whipped up into the majestic world of chilly cold atmospheres gleaming in the magical warmth of daylight. Its unsurprisingly a Fantasy, Dungeon Synth hybrid and its tone is identifiable immediately. It leans into pleasantries of simple melody and steady notation akin to the medieval sovereignty of Fief. Its pallet of icy bells, prestigious plucked strings and soft synthesizer creates a welcoming atmosphere of natural beauty, mystery and charm all within a chilling, snow setting fondly fitted by the records cover. Snowy trees on a warm day with a clear sky, it is that beauty.

The first few spins were magical, the absence of this music in my audio habits made for a returning wonder that didn't stick around as much getting deeper into the record. Its pacing, tone and structure is very one dimensional. Instruments often operate at the same temperament and tempo, looping simple arrangements with little in the way of progression or event. It quickly becomes a linear journey, serving better in the background, casting a stellar mood and tone that seems plain on closer inspection.

The gorgeous pallet of instruments and whirling, windy synths that bustle in the background really props up the music that has little in the way of progression. Every song seems to end where it starts and although a couple peer into a more mysterious and distant angle, the music mostly resides in a safe and consistent setting. Only one song musters a little sorrow and darkness but it is the albums dullest. Buried in the fifty minutes are a couple of dazzling melodic arrangements but they too hide within the musics stiff arrangements. Its a really good listen but simplicity holds it back.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Steve Roach "Eclipse Mix" (2017)


In the mood for more meditative music I stumbled onto a free, hour long release from Ambient master Steve Roach! It is initially quite the uneventful and hard to pin down record as its soft alluring drones of calmness continuously perpetuate the stillness of space. The spacial humming murmurs illusive creaks of notes that fall like a blanket, one big blur of rising sound that makes a moment feel eternal. The knobs and dials of Steve's synthesizers are tweaked to that magic tone where the reverberations ooze into one another as gleaming synths seem to turn over each other without collision. It grows in intensity, its repeating elements building up and then unwind.

The calm, inviting space carved in the beginning of the track gives way to a darker shift as the twenty minute mark passes. Eerie, uneasy synths bring disharmony to the forefront with buried, disjointed melodies and reverberations that sound reversed to unsettle the listener. Whenever enjoy the relaxing music in the background, it doesn't take long to notice this shift in tone as one feels on edge in its presence. Beyond this phase the music rears itself on an icy path, the warmth and fire of the two opening phases seem distant, the tone is of limbo, as the new setting holds hints of these differing dynamics yet is suspended between them all.

It lacks the distinct and consistent tone of the opening, always unsettled by subtly shifting and allowing for big, glacial synth tones to rise, melt and flood the soundscape. It may be devoid of obvious melody but it becomes quite eventful in the final phases as big brooding sounds revolve around each other and cut the stillness like passing monoliths, inanimate but massive in scope and presence. All in all its a really enjoyable hour when in the right mood. I sought something out and got exactly what I was looking for! Best of all it was free on Steve's bandcamp page!

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

The Young Gods "Data Mirage Tangram" (2019)


I believe it was David Bowie who once gave props to the Swiz group The Young Gods as a big influence on the Industrial Metal sound. That led me to their TV Sky album and since then I had not explored further. After nine years of silence the trio return with an interesting record that stumbles into pacing issues midway as its quirky atmospheres of subtle psychedelia, dialed down industrialism and lifeless abandon pivot into dull, quiet and lengthy iterations of its initial ideas. The first few tracks birth a sense of calm and obscure loneliness, a soundtrack to isolation on an alien planet. No threat is insight but madness lurks on the horizon of ones mind as the stillness oozes a soft eeriness. Erupting slabs of buzzed out distortion guitars ignite heightened event in moments of upheaval but otherwise the music is very laid back.

Steady downtempo beats set pace for elongated scenic synths to conjure a mood as buzzing baselines and subtle glitched electronic noises make a lining to the structure of its sound design. On Moon Above much of this structure looses ground as the percussion dissipates in a slippery audio collapse. Off beat drum strikes are slowly enveloped by tape stretching sound effects and glitched noises that break apart the song, reaching a dissipating conclusion. Its after this point that the album loses its stride. Going into an eleven minute drone of minimalism, it takes to long to reach its climatic eerie synths being roared upon by assailant, imposing guitars that cut the intended tension with a menacing shrill high frequency distortion.

After this dull escapade the charm returns a little with looping reverberations hooking in psychedelic vibes from the lead guitars in the second phase of You Gave Me A Name. It grows and emboldens with captivating style but it is one passageway in another dull stretch of lucid music. If it had stayed on track this album would be a keen contender for king of its niche vibe but with this lapse of pace in the second half it ends on a snooze. I don't wont to dwell too much on that issue, the opening music is interesting, indulgent and fantastic but as an album it cuts itself short of a fuller experience, dialing the energy down as the album progresses and failing to build on its initial ideas which are impactful when putting the record on for a spin. It has songs I will come back for, but not as a whole.

Favorite Tracks: Tear Up The Red Sky, Figure Sans Nom, You Gave Me A Name
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Devin Townsend "Empath" (2019)


On occasion one may ponder the powers scarcity and availability has towards the seduction of an artist. Perhaps a life taken early leaves one divine piece of work behind illuminated and in the case of those blessed with good health and abundance of opertunity, quantity is an excellence. In the case of this Canadian musical genius, we have been spoiled rotten by decades of continual output. From Strapping Young Lad to Casualties Of Cool and back to the Devin Townsend Project, his band and solo adventures has made it feel like every year is graced by something new. After the disbanding of DTP, Dev has taken a short two year hiatus to return with no shortage of inspiration and an almighty seventy four minutes, a collection of his most diverse sounds and extremities that I admittedly had a slow time coming around to.

My problem was simple, I know his music all to well and admittedly little within Empath surprised me on the first few spins. Perhaps I was expecting some new frontier to be conquered, a turn of the path. Thus I found much of the music reminding me of the parallels to his other works. The production however was immediately impressive, a most luscious and crystal clear, perfectionist craft. His best to date. The gravitating walls of sound deliver delicious slabs of glossy sound, distortion guitars and synths expressing weighty grooves and movements in tandem. Devin deploys his typical range of styles again with an added exuberance that reaches into the extremes, both of the entertainingly ugly and not so skin deep pretty aesthetics.

Through the record Devin reaches back to the blistering mania of SYL, occasional demonic gutturals are ripe with a textural fortitude unheard before. On the other end of the spectrum his ever powerful and grandiose voice soars to new heights imploring a range of serene and beautiful melodies. It is in this calmer side of the music that he makes his biggest progressive stride, creating stretches of unbelievably beautiful, glossy soundscapes that have a natural tone, the soundtrack to the animals of the cover. This may be prompted by the inclusion of cat meows and dolphin cries at certain milestones of the record. There are also many colorful, exotic bells, xylophones and whistles that drop in another dimension to his chunky rhythm led music. Its sense of theater and classical composition also takes strides with stretches of orchestral thematic music taking center stage on a wildly diverse album that can flip the switch on its opposed ends in an instant.

It is with the last few of my many habitual listens to Empath that it occurs to me barely a second of the record hasn't lost my interest. My familiarity with what to expect perhaps blunted its blow at first. Even now much of the music feels shades beyond my memory of it but this is something new to cram into a crowded space of classics this man has forged. I now go into my second decade of spins feeling like this may only have the potential to grow on me. Much of what I love is spread across its wide pallet and I do think it has pacing issues where its direction changes. It feels more like a spin of the bottle but its continued exuberant energy also lets it make total sense. Its just all a little overwhelming, Empath is all of Devin's work rolled into one with a cool new breeze thrown in. I should think less and enjoy more!

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 5 April 2019

City Morgue "City Morgue Vol 1 Hell Or High Water" (2018)


 Hell Or High Water is the debut record by the newly formed City Morgue, a pair of young rappers taking a lot of influence from the likes of the uber-aggressive 6ix9ine, who may be the most commercially successful of these "over the top" rappers. The project caught my attention because of its ties to Metal and Industrial music. The pacey, lively instrumentals deploy FL Studio Slayer guitar tones in the meat of their beats. A gritty, lean distortion fit for their overtly hostile and vulgar flows which are filled to the brim with offense and obscenity aiming insults in all directions. The two have a wild, dangerous energy, scream rapping with a menace that'll get you moving.

On closer inspection much of the lyrics are skin deep and more about trading blows than provoking thought. City Morgue comes out the gate with a firm and consistent aesthetic. Brisk, darkly beats, rocking harsh Trap influenced kits and a barrage of sound effects, shouts, screams and back up cries bombard the listener with a restless energy. Many of the tracks kick of with maniacal laughter, a touch of madness sounding like a deranged person who just escaped from the house of horrors.

Despite leaning into these dark themes the music is mostly fun and grooving. A lot of the beats land on the pulse of the groove and make for some careless crude fun. On occasion they even land a fine hook like the "gave hop" call on top of these disorienting instrumentals that rock disjointed samples, eerie urban melodies and dirty sub-bass noise, rumbling below the kicks of the percussion. The instrumentals are tough and if your not in the mod for fowl lyricism then this can be a tough record.

The duo barely let the foot of the gas with the vulgarities and the delivery style is consistently domineering. In some moments the word slurring trend and ambiguous pronunciation comes into play, its not particularly interesting. A lot of this record is relatively mediocre but in the union of parts something quite unique forms. Potential is the word to take away from this. Improved lyricism, better hooks and songwriting would really further this attention grabbing sound. One to watch for the future.

Favorite Tracks: Arson, Gravehop187, So What
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Death Fortress "Reign Of The Unending" (2018)


Reign Of The Unending wont be leaving my playlist anytime soon! Its the American bands forth record and after a matter of minutes checking them out, I knew I would adore this. Many spins later I can confirm my continued adoration. Its brutal, ferociously dark, icy cold and unrelentingly aggressive. Death Fortress resurrects the blistering approach to Black Metal once envisioned by Immortal with their classic Pure Holocaust. A helping of loudness from modernized equipment electrifies the shrouded fidelity. With craft and inspiration they forge six engaging songs to make a riveting and atmospheric thirty seven minutes of plundering abyssal chaos.

 Its first big distinction emerges past the howling shrieks as indiscernible and guttural, abysmal groans blurt out blocks of ungodly low sound into the mix with only their timing and texture to assimilate. Its not deployed often and is a filthy pleasure whenever the monstrosity is unleashed. The avalanche of unrelenting fury that comes with it is electrifying, a torrent of battering percussive force rains down as the drummer works out anger issues obliterating his kit. The guitars shred away frosty tremolo chords with tendinitis educing intensity and shivering tonality. It all blurs into that engulfing bestial fury of the most extreme degree, Black Metal at its finest!

Death Fortress really understand the dynamic of this sound, what little "melody" that emerges through the wall of sound has a fantastic poise of mystique and aggression that conjures an unsettling atmosphere of forbidden magics and maleficent being from worlds beyond our own. Its not all relentless punishment, the songs develop with varying intensities. Monolith Winter makes a remarkable journey from an ice blizzard start and steadily tones down its blast beats into fill laden grooves as the lead guitar builds a sense of scale that grows and blossoms. The final song Wrath Of God raises the stakes with an epic, dynamic track, bringing out those plucked chords in true Immortal style and a little hint of Graveland triumph too.

Any "lack" of originality flies out the window for the stunning execution on display. The band need not to hide their influences for their inspirations has led to brilliant music. Reign Of The Unending is a class act that revives that incredible energy Immortal deploy. I haven't heard another band even come close to it before. Dare I say they even match it? I struggle to find any complaints on this release, perhaps one or two of its lengthy songs drag their heels but otherwise its been an absolute pleasure to indulge in. As mentioned above this audio torture wont be leaving my ears soon!

Favorite Tracks: Glory To Tyrants, Monolith Winter, Wrath Of God
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Jean Michel Jarre "Magnetic Fields" (1981)


The fun of this retro synth journey has begun to flicker as my interest wavers in these chirpy adventures on the timely frontier of electronic music. With this next installment we are introduced to an emboldened foray of punchier buzz saws and sine waves that come rather close to tones heard on the NES game system. Its a sharper, harder hitting record that starts of with an opening seventeen minute tangent song. Its got a cool temperament and darker undercurrent reminiscent of Oscillotron. Unfortunately it doesn't manifest in that direction and the music fleets through various arrangements with a lack of direction and disorienting cohesion that meanders.

With a lack of clear event, build up or emotional entanglement, the music can easily slip from focus and descend into a rattling whirl of animated synths zapping away in the distance. The second track deploys a jarring stereo shuffle beat of claps that dispels the magic of its lead melody which itself is quite the ear worm. The last three tracks expand the pallet and experiment with different tones, temperaments and sound sampling but there is little going on to resurrect my already lukewarm feeling. The first few listens were enjoyable but quickly it lost its charm. Oxygene and Equinoxe were a blast but moving to the eighties Im sensing there isn't much left for me in his sound, so I conclude my exploration of Jean Michel Jarre's music here.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Living Colour "Vivid" (1988)


The magic of shuffle kicks off another journey as a track other than Cult Of Personality plays and captivates my attention. Its the perfect spark to lure me in and over the past couple of weeks Ive grown to adore this record! When first digging the mood and vibes I thought about how much I loved nineties music, of course this record was a couple years before that decade but Its shades of Alternative and Funk Metal now sound like a precursor to what would blow up in the coming years. You could even trace back Groove Metal back to some of the stomping riffs that appear on this record too. Its been a revelation in some ways, another piece in the puzzle, a key one too.

The group formed in New York a few years prior to this debut album and they arrive on the scene with a really powerful and well formed sound that fuses elements of the aforementioned genres with a Hard Rock baseline, some flavors of Funk and periodic upbeat inflections of cheesy eighties Pop vibes. They pull it off well and roar out the gates with the timeless Cult Of Personality, beyond it an impressive set of songs bring a diversity of well executed ideas thanks to a solid rhythm department. Its led by slamming drum beats that have a little Hip Hop sway to them and alongside punchy baselines that get a couple of songs to step up and flex phenomenal bass playing.

Singer Glover has a fantastic range and pulls off some immense high pitched notes at key moments, he is a well rounded voice at the forefront, lively and emotionally invested. The guitar work is sublime, a range of styles even spanning as far as a Country tang give the songs there tone. The lead playing lines many of them with electric guitar solos that erupt and roar, bursting to life with electricity, showing off technical prowess and slick inspiration. They also drop in with hard hitting riffs and grooves that will have you slamming your head back and forth on many an occasion.

To me, the record walks on many paths and feels like a journey round the world as it explores many ideas, tones and temperaments. The lyrical content and theming also hits a diverse collection of thoughts and problems having personal perspectives, strong feelings and a outlook towards social situations and political problems. The two aspects gel together fantastically and make for a record I can't help think may be somewhat lost to time. I wouldn't say its a classic but it really has a pivotal feel to it, a stepping stone towards the immense music I adore from the early nineties.

Favorite Tracks: Cult Of Personality, Desperate People, Open Letter, Broken Hearts
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Puppy "Puppy" (2015)


Fondly reminded of teenage obsessions with music, I have found myself in adoration of Puppy's latest album The Goat. I went back and gave it a ten, as I simply cannot get enough of the record. I also remembered that they had another EP before Vol II, somehow I forgot about it! Another four tracks of their glorious and inspired mash of Alternative, Metal and Rock tones that this time around show the particulars of their heritage with some guitar styling drawing obvious parallels to other artists.

The four songs are a sweet fit for their sound, another exchange of monstrous guitar grooves, sunny yet sombre emotional intersections and beautiful singing with the occasional peaking harmonization. The songs hum an energy within simple structures as the intensity ebbs and flows, often led by the gorgeous guitar tones. I can't help but hear strong echos of Iron Maiden within their Heavy Metal alike melodic riffs. In the vulnerable sung sections backed by hazy distortion guitars its Weezer I can feel.

Like with all their music, the links are keen and its hard to not feel the presence of these other bands yet it comes together in the most gratifying of ways, inspired and far from intimation. They sound more so like a logical successor and that is considering this is their first record. The Great Beyond will probably grab your attention as the flag song for the EP with its main riff shaking the ground each time it rolls around. I really enjoyed this considering how I want nothing but more from this band right now!

Favorite Track: The Great Beyond
Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Pale Waves "My Mind Makes Noises" (2018)


My Mind Makes Noises is a frankly disappointing debut record from this youthful eighties revival band. Its a rather different experience from their promising four track, All The Things I Never Said. The excitement of a young new act and nostalgic vibes stirred quite hype but its weak points, mainly lyrics, never stood out as much as it does on the fifty minutes one has to endure here. Singer Baron-Gracie has the clean cut voice perfect for simple pop songs but the lyrical simplicity is almost painful. Her use of plain observational language, a lack of creative lyricism and heavy repetition cycles through the same bleak teenage relationship topics over and over again. Insecurities, envy, jealous, infatuation and raging youthful emotion froth to the boil on every song. Its just not my cup of tea unfortunately.

Behind her words glossy, squeaky clean instrumentals pump out eighties melodies in dead simple song structures for fourteen songs with little in the way of variety. Its a tolerable experience with gleaming melodies glistening over steady beats and sturdy foundational baselines. They come repackaged again and again with varying degrees of tone but ultimately the same formula. Its little distraction from the self indulgent, aggrandizing lyrics that elevate surface emotions over self reflection or introspection.

Its quite frankly immature and that is fine, Its clearly for a younger audience and I could totally see a young me digging it. The music is tolerable but the lyrics were like an ear worm. I don't think the EP's words were less formed in this direction and thus got away with one but at this point I am not terribly excited about where they go from here. I will probably pick up the next album if its singles show signs of development. Seems unlikely but would be nice to hear this sound go to new places.

Rating: 2/10

Friday, 22 March 2019

Fen "Stone And Sea" (2019)


Years have passed since Dustwalker and Carrion Skies, two records I was keen to check out but felt far from the magic of their debut The Malediction Fields. Apparently I have been oblivious to their fifth full length entitled Winter, released a couple years back. This short, three track EP was just the right dose of music for my tasting. To no surprise Fen's sound is rooted in the period where Black Metal first diverged from its second wave and with earthly tones and naturalistic inspiration the trio conjure three tracks that play with a familiar theme of light and darkness, swaying between the two.

The mostly darkened avenues the music walks is rough and raspy, throaty howls yell over loose blast beats and gritty distortions that feel earthly and muddy in the mix. The production is raw with its crunchy guitars and muddy noise, the clashing cymbals cut sharply through but with a creek of chemistry to tie it all together. Its got a sloppy sound but that is the charm to some extent. Its earthly, human and perhaps mystical.

It has its heavy moments that conjure the atmosphere of natural wonder in the darkness of a moon lit night setting over forests and moors but the light upheavals mostly emanate from the peaking melodies that transcend the gritty foundations. The music builds to an eruption of triumphant lead guitar queued by clean and humbly imperfect vocal lines that break up the screams and howls, bringing in that uplift of light from an overwhelmingly darker and dusty sound across its span.

Its rises of the light are brief and infrequent but the overall structure makes for a charming midsection of acoustic guitars that usher in cultural roots. It should be pointed out that the EP is essentially one big twenty minute song. The opening 8 minutes blister through shrill and windswept bustling furies of energy and its mid section acts as an calm between storms. The third act infuses chunkier elements of groove and a bigger emphasis on the lead guitar that brings the song to its climax, one that is drawn out to the end. Its quite the epic piece of music and one I have fondly enjoyed! This more focused Fen is more to my liking.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Swallow The Sun "When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light" (2019)


Finish Doom Metal band Swallow The Sun have been around for many a year, however this is the first time I have heard of them. Its their seventh full length release as the group approach a second decade of existence. That experience shows in these classy compositions and my initial listen to this record was like a revelation. A seemingly "new" take on Doom Metal and the gothic, sorrow soaked dynamics of shifting between the bleak black and melodic melancholy was initially mesmerizing. It led to my binging of the eight songs and ultimately transitioning to a more neutral position as the freshness wore off and its construct and genre tropes became clearer.

When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light is a deceptively brilliant approach to the age old formula of grandiose, symphonic, Death Doom hybrids. Its a genre I am not well versed on but reminds me fondly of a gem by Desire, once plundered when dipping my toes into the musical history of Doom. Its as if all the components have been pulled apart, given a polish and put back together again, the final result feeling different, yet objectively similar. There is plenty of sorrowful, emotional melodies bled slowly alongside gothic lyricism and the occasional use of contrasting heavies. Deep guttural groans of darkness make an appearance with other typical stylings. I think what separates it at the surface is the vocals which more often than not bring howl more akin to Black Metal and plenty of palatable clean singing approaches, both male, effeminate and occasionally esoteric.

The music itself is wonderful, a pristine fusion of sounds. In its darkly avenues ripping distortion guitars and throaty howls can suck the listener in. When suspended in the dreary states of limbo, rising synths, sparing stringed instruments and clean plucked notes on glossy guitars carry the suspense as foray of vocal styles mourn in human sorrow. Its propelled onward by punchy drums, a driving, slow, powerful momentum that solidifies the sense of scale. Over the fifty two minutes it finds many sweet overlaps and progressions that dial the various elements in, usually finding its way to climactic moments within the thematic setting. Clouds On Your Side does this best in its mid section where it feels like all elements collide and climax.

For all the obvious glory, I think I may have binged this one a little too hard. Its been utterly riveting and some distance will make it a fond arrival whenever the magic of shuffle blesses some absent minded listening. This record has convinced me more than other that there is more to be found in the Doom Metal genre, however over my experience I also became all too aware of its tropes and common practices which I apriacient and enjoy with a little more distance than that of other Metal counterparts. Great record, well worth a listen if your a fan of heavy music.

Favorite Tracks: The Crimson Crown, Clouds On Your Side
Rating: 7/10