Thursday, 18 July 2019

Mare Cognitum "Luminiferous Aether" (2016)


Living in the shadows of its predecessor Phobos Monolith, this fourth chapter from the American band fails to make a particular distinction of itself. Heliacal Rising sets the album off with haunting Ethereal tones of sullen dreary sombreness. A Post-Rock approach creates a scenic direction soon lost to the counteracting intensity. Only the lurching howls of agonizing screams that dissipate into the distance tie it to the Black Metal direction it soon embarks on. With a slow build up it lunges in with increasing degrees of distortion guitar resonance. By the second song we land on a hybrid of extreme musical intensity and crafty guitar work focused on forging esoteric atmospheres through non linear music that never quite engages me fully.

Its a rattle of pummeling drums bearing down on the listener as howling guitar leads foray into abstract melodies that lack the cosmic vibes of the previous record. The screams tend to land as intersecting slabs of noise, screeching out into the distance as heavy but short reverberations have them sink away. On paper this could all work but none of its emerging melodies quite strike a chord despite having clear lineage. Things do pick up heading into the end of the record, a darker atmosphere and agitated, aggressive riffs forge power over the brighter counterpart. These songs hold themselves together well with busying drumming and more interesting chord progressions.

Albums like this often pivot on mood and perhaps I have indulged too much in this form of Extreme Metal lately as its just not having an impact. It sounds technically wonderful and the production serves its intention well but through all the darkly music little of it has been as stimulating as Id expect. Much of the key musical progression emerges from design with the same blueprint and thus gets a little tiresome without any break out moments. Not one I'll probably come back to but it was an entertaining listen to say the least.

Favorite Track: Occultated Temporal Dimensions
Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Tycho "Weather" (2019)


Laid back tempos, hypnotically chilled atmospheres and exotic summer melodies. All the hallmarks of American musician Scott Hansen's distinct sound remain intact on this newest project. It is however a clearly watered down version of his immersive sound that broke out with Drive. Softer synthetic tones and less of those dreamy waves of hypnotic sound, it marks a departure perhaps. In comparison the percussion is subdued and many of the gorgeous sounding instruments play on the leaner side, letting timely reverberations carry the atmosphere over building songs with dense melodic design. Its all sweet and luscious but the swells of thickening sound and driving tunes that once made this a very special project seem to be absent.

A lighter temperament of whats been done before is no bother but for me the record slips away with the inclusion of Saint Sinner. I don't like to dwell on negatives but I find her voice all to plain and vanilla for a record in need of an energetic swell. With a flat, soft and airy singing style she doesn't convey much emotive expression. A few inflections and whispering words break up a rather monotone approach. She fits in around the instrumentals but I feel nothing other than mediocrity from their chemistry.

In the shadow of former work the magic this new chapter just feels tamed with a lack of new ideas. The best tracks are undoubtedly those without Saint and with more room for expression some of his classic alluring melodic style illuminates but its often brief. This is a well produced record tho, with indulgent tones and aesthetics it could chill out anyone in the right mind, however the vocal aspect doesn't work out well. They span five of these eight tracks and clocking in under thirty minutes its really lacking any spark. As an introduction to Tycho's sound it would probably fare well but as a fan this direction just feels toned down, offering nothing new.

Favorite Tracks: Easy, Into The Woods
Rating: 3/10

Monday, 15 July 2019

Billie Eilish "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" (2019)


Here's a fact that makes me feel drowsy, Billie was born after 9/11... Let that sink in, what a reminder of how time gets past you... Her name has circulated past me plenty of times and after hearing she broke records for youngest performing artist at various festivals I had to check this one out. When We Fall Asleep is her debut album and the Teenager's hype presents itself swiftly but lasts after many spins. With a charmingly soft and subdued voice, this fusion of Pop and Electronic music stands apart with an Avant-garde edge in vocal experimentation that toys with distortion and more.

The norms are present, typically sensible and poppy melodies linger throughout. Warm and easy pianos drop in chords to chime with airy synth tones in easily digestible arrangements. Softly strummed guitars and easy percussion make for light listening too, its all good stuff. Each song has its temperament and the charm emerges mostly from these snappy crunchy beats, that bite into stereo spectrum, crisp and brittle. With sharp attacks and swift decays they carry quite the subtle persuasion, infusing a keener edge that sticks into her mostly approachable music.

Across the songs her voice shows quite the dynamism, often breaking from the breathy and softly sung words that malign most the instrumentals. Heavenly choral harmonization and quirky pitch shifting, many of the songs have a twist that ends up being a focal point of delight. Playing with echos, reverbs, stuttering delays and distortion its clear that a lot of experimentation takes place in her process. Whats wonderful is how it lands on the target. Never does a vocal quirk feel forced, its all very inspirational and fluid, emotional and riveting in authenticity.

Her songs seem to be able to take these abstractions and flesh them out into living entities that feel and express. This even extends the spectacle of including samples from the Micheal Scarn episode of TV show The Office. On one hand it seems unrelated to the lyrics but somehow fits in. There isn't a moment of this record I don't love. Its well fleshed out with exciting musical experimentation that flourishes, swaying between emotive surges and bursts of percussive force. On a couple of tracks her vocal style almost borders ASMR, a slight irritation but a possible influence on a young artist who undoubtedly knows of the phenomena. This has been a fantastic record and I can't wait to hear what she will do next!

Favorite Tracks: You Should See Me In A Crowd, When The Partys Over, I Love You, Goodbye
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 12 July 2019

3TEETH "Metawar" (2019)


Hot damn do I love Industrial Metal and what a big meaty slab of electrocuted industrious filth this record is! Metawar is the Californian bands third full length and its undoubtedly my cup of tea but I can't praise it for originality. A fine tuned titanium studio production and good songwriting holds it up well against the obvious influences worn proudly here. From Nine Inch Nails, to Marilyn Manson, Ministry to Fear Factory and all in between, everything at play here feels but a fraction away from vibrations and moods conjured many a time before them, however it does have its own stamp.

The one place they excel is with the thrilling eight string guitar sound. Its dense, tight and lavished in a bludgeoning tone that inches towards sounding like moving parts of an industrial piston powered machine of death! They ring out with big chunks of booming momentous noise, taking influence from the likes of Nu and Groove Metal in its rhythmic sense of bounce. Its a delight mixing in alongside the harsh and jarring synths blare out anti-melodies. They feed into the unsatisfied, angry and dystopian feeling of rebellion these songs cry like anthems. The battering drums and deep baselines ram themselves into the condensed wall of noise being propelled your way, its a cohesive force of destruction that batters with its industrial metallic might.

Singer Alexis Mincolla has a firm and defining presence in the limelight. Roaring with fiery, strained screams between twisted, tormented spoken words of infliction he sounds apologetically like Manson. If they shared a third factor its the ability to put a sung hook down in a nature that grabs your attention but living in the shadow of such an artist he only occasionally escapes that mold of seeming like his influence. Its so well executed that its no drawback. If your looking for originality it may only be in one department but when it comes to the music this will easily win over Industrial fans.

At forty six minutes it does run through a fair few mediocre songs. The energy and temperament shifts through aggressive, atmospheric and alien vibes to keep it flowing however after a handful of listens you'll suss out your favorites. Its best comes on a handful of tracks and despite sounding utterly sharp and pounding the songs don't quite reach for the stars. There is much too love here, much promise for this band and if they continue improving I could see this sound being pushed further.

Favorite Tracks: Affluenze, American Landfill, President X, Pumped Up Kicks
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The Comet Is Coming "Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery" (2019)


 In this age of bizarre and unusual musical machinations aided through digital connectivity, this London based trio, The Comet Is Coming, have an eclectic but related assembling of influences. It does however sound as if this could of taken place in the 90s. Jazz Fusion, Progressive Rock, Psychedelia and Electronic music collide with a hint of metallic rhythm styling to the likes of Groove Metal underpinning the approaches to groove and melody. With a drummer, saxophone and keyboard players these three make a rich tapestries of oozing sound, weaving layers of soaring sound between the thudding backbone of rhythm that propels these songs along.

Its typically progressive, winding passages of vividly colorful instrumental tapestry evolves beneath the ever adventuring and freely expressive Sax that jams and howls in the wind. It does however find its way around to stomping drives of primitive minimalism as a couple of notes will rhythmically bounce similar to a Machine Head riff. In these moments one could perhaps hear it as a guitar riff but its execution with the electronic synths hails to EDM and Dance music. Its magnetic and also infects the Sax which occasionally breaks from its advantageous swells of dexterous freting into simplistic dances between a handful of notes.

The three have a sparkling chemistry however its drummer Max Hallett who puts the cherry on top. Oozing, luscious spacey synths aside, the constantly animated and lively percussion seems to anchor everything together. its almost like a third instrument when the beat drops out and an array of symbols shimmer like stars. The range and timbre is enjoyable too, at first its mainly a more Rock oriented kit but as the album develops more worldly drum tones become involved. The only vocal element comes from Kate Tempest who lends her voice and poetry with an impactful appearance that suits the instrumental sound well.

The albums structure and duration feels very tasteful. At forty five minutes it manages to feel lengthy and epic without being a slug. Only one song gets deep into length at eight minutes, most are four five and hold attention from start to end. With slick transitions each song ends up feeling like one part of the bigger picture making for an engrossing listening experience! There isn't a dull moment here however a couple of tribal bass thumping grooves certainly get my attention the most. Cracking record I think will stay with me for years to come!

Favorite Tracks: Because The End Is Really The Beginning, Blood Of The Past
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Slowthai "Nothing Great About Britain" (2019)


This debut album by up and coming Grime rapper Slowthai sets a candid tone from the offset with its "Nothing Great About Britain" title. Its a striking statement reflecting the albums mood and grim outlook on the failed estates of England's working class. With a sharp talent for the mic, a unique vocal inflections on pronunciation and a fine set of instrumentals this makes for a riotous listen. Despite the lingering gritty gloom of his pessimistic perspective, the tales and story's of urban life trapped on this island are captivating and elevated by the energy he packs. Sturdy rhyme skills, boisterous presence and ripe youthful vitality, Slowthai can be playful and cheeky at times with no shortage of attitude but beneath it all lies thoughtful expressions that offers a lot to think on for the challenges of the youth in this country today.

Socially and politically aware, Tyron tackles the hardest of topics including mental health, poverty and drug abuse with a raw and unapologetic attitude to make light of itself in the haze of his exuberant liveliness. Hailing from Northampton he embraces his identity and heritage without pride but an authenticity that is a firm fit for the Grime sound. Going through all the temperaments he can take this sound to measured places. Doorman has a fantastic Punk energy to match his accent drenched singing, it flows between typically styled Grime beats, influenced by the likes of early Dizzee Rascal. In other tracks like Gorgous, Crack and Toaster, he slips into more soulful and reflective flow, showing a sensitive, appreciative side to himself too. The last three songs dive deeper into the dark and the album packs an absolute banger with Inglorious, featuring Skepta who delivers a veterans rap. Its a wild song, a big booming baseline with heavy lyrics cruising over the crusing beat.

Eleven tracks at thirty two minutes, the young artist makes an autobiographical arrival with a curated experience seeking quality over content. Luring you in with lively instrumentals you'll stay for the authenticity. Slowthai is a big persona, animating himself vividly with clever lyricism and the occasional implementation of his unique high pitched vocal slur. At times his words do fall to folly, taking aims at the royals with little said on why for example. He is at his best when giving personal tales and thoughts of which there are plenty. If he grows as an artist he could go on to do great things. This debut is not without its flaws but it shows his spark effortlessly.

Favorite Tracks: Doorman, Inglorious, Northampton's Child
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Schoolboy Q "CrasH Talk" (2019)


Schoolboy Q is back with his fifth full length record, another cut of rugged street flavored rhymes and slick urban instrumentals. At forty minutes it represents his leanest project to date, which I can't label as quality over quantity. Many of these songs fail to show themselves without dedicated listening. Nothing to be found like a Hover Street, the sort of song that grabs you by the neck and commands your attention. This records best song by a good stretch is Chopstix, coming from the mind of Travis Scott. His synthetic production style and chorus hook nails a intoxicating vibe that would fit sweetly into one of his own projects.

Q comes to the mic as a mean front man, bringing a range of vocal styles to his new project. Often he sounds slightly agitated with a confident demeanor. Keenly pronounced, he affirms himself with steady flows and lyrics that most wavier above mediocrity. With little making a mark the record hits some stiff jarring creative choices. The dreary interlude track Drunk hits a wall with Q rapping with the signature Drake "Ahye" crutch, its one of many aproaches and he changes up his style so often its hard to know who's who. The track Floating has one of the weakest spoken word slurred flows going, I think from 21 Savage. Floating takes an award for the weakest hook, "I got that water, Yea, I got that water". Its dull and a one to endure.

The instrumentals are hit and miss, a good mix of modern kits and sampling oriented vibes. Luckily it sounds like the best hooks land on the strongest instrumentals, yielding a handful of songs to go back on between many unfavorable ones. Handled mostly by three or so producers they conjure up a variety that doesn't have any particular flow across the forty minutes. The experience tends to drag despite short songs, most of which don't pass three minutes. This was all to run of the mill, no focus or arching theme, Q's words don't leave the page to often and its not to the last song that we get a wiff of his flair. Its not awful but Ive found myself expecting so much more from this talented artist.

Favorite Tracks: Chopstix, Lies, 5200, Die Wit Em, Attention
Rating: 4/10

Monday, 1 July 2019

Kate Tempest "The Book Of Traps And Lessons" (2019)


I was dead excited for this release, Everybody Down and Let Them Eat Chaos made quite the impact. Kate's heavy and burdensome poetry paired with impoverished Hip Hop instrumentals made quite a unique potion of the classic formula. This time around there is a clear shift in tone, the limelight lands firmly on Kate as the pace and foundation of drum beats are far between one another. The subtlety of dark ambience pianos, strings and atmospheric keys softly shade the space around her words.

It plays like a poetry piece mustering winds of momentum as the instruments occasionally pick up the musky tone and carry it along. Kate is otherwise quite the smothering ache of your attention. The bleak and quiet despair of mundane existence grasps her words as details of failed relationships, social pressure and societal observations manifest into spiraling thought worms. Occasional flickers of wisdom, conclusion or relief linger but the majority of this record is quite a weight on the listener.

The tenderness and vulnerability captured in her voice seals the authenticity of this expression. Wordplay, narrative and innuendo interweave as trains of consciousness collide with thawed out thoughts, articulated to an exhibit. Its undoubtedly deep and comes in waves of topics, feeling like a linear narrative that seems to fly all over the place. There is much to chew through here however its not quite for me.

The problem I have with this record is how doom and gloom the tone is. Both introspection and outwards reflection finds no light between the clouds. It becomes a downtrodden journey sucking away mood when the already quite instrumentals strip to a silence. Kate's words are inescapable in these moments and her words ring the alarms a degree to paranoid for my taste. These big topics tackled are done so with a bias for the depressing and despite a beauty in her language its path is one that brings you with it. The uplift and conclusion it ends with too feels in too much contrast to all that came before. Its an unsatisfying and forceful look into the shadows.

Favorite Track: Firesmoke
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Queen "A Day At The Races" (1976)


Proceeding from the sensational heights of Bohemian Rhapsody on counterpart record A Night At The Opera, British legends Queen return with a shaky response from critics at that time, forty three years ago. I find myself at odds with the criticism weighed upon the band. The former record came with peaks and valleys, songs that soared and delves into pantomime theatrics that dispelled the flow in places. A Day At The Races is a far more leveled and cohesive record where the bands eclecticism sticks like glue without a week spot. The problem is however that not a lot here is that remarkable in comparison. The Millionaire Waltz may be its only soaring moment as playful theater musical jollity collides with riveting Heavy Metal licks at weighty chords that culminate in a mid song eruption of electricity... Only Queen could do this.

Starting to develop a better understand of the band, one can hear creaking similarities and writing crutches in the music. Roger Taylor seems to have an uncanny knack of mustering a distinct persona with his song Drowse, perhaps the vocals give it away but then again this is a band of four song writers and given at least a song each it is no surprise these thumbprints arise. Writing these words I can see how these perspectives can be leveraged against the record but It plays so smoothly.

Rolling from one song to the next it ebbs and flows, Brian May's guitar electrifying when timeless Freddie is absent. These spurts of textural heavy guitar tone erupt, filling key parts of the music with true imagination throughout its run time. The intro has a particular glorious use of tape reversed guitar lead to create a suspenseful opening to the record. It is heard again as the record closes on Teo Torriatte, a song half sung in Japanese that peaks with moving group chorals as it reaches its end. A really firm record that flows far better than anything before it but perhaps suffering from to little of their peak magics yet the songwriting is fantastic at uniting style as you'd expect.

Favorite Tracks: Tie Your Mother Down, The Millionaire Waltz, Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy, Drowse
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Wolf Hoffmann "Headbangers Symphony" (2016)


There is not much for me to say on this record other than commending it on being a stellar execution of an idea many have flirted with over the years. Given the musical similarities between Heavy Metal and Classical music, not aesthetic of course, It is not to uncommon to see these worlds collide but what Wolf Hoffmann of Accept has done is tastefully unite crunching guitars and battering drums with its symphonic counterpart in a way that relishes the common ground. It will undoubtedly be more appealing to Metal fans as the aggressive instruments have a habit of dominating the synergy but the string arrangements and orchestra get to have a say in how these songs land.

The line up is impressive, not the most best known Classical songs but certainly ones from big names... Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Bach, Vivaldi and Beethoven to name a few. Most adaptations work on the darker leaning of Heavy Metal aggression but Swan Lake and the closing Air On The G String yield a classy uplift from his burly distortion instruments. Its actually what I would like to of heard more of as the likes of Night On Bald Mountain and Double Cello Concerto In G Minor lend themselves all to easily. Either way its a fantastic record, well produced with clarity in mind as the two worlds collide in style. A must listen for fans of both genres.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Mare Cognitum "Phobos Monolith" (2014)


It was once the experience of a music lover to flick through crates of vinyl sleeves in a dusty record store, looking for something to land your attention and empty your wallet. In the digital age it is Bandcamp alone that has managed to recreate that market place feeling and so easily am I sucked in to browsing binges. If this illustrious artwork and the promise of "Cosmic Black Metal" isn't enough to lure me in then abandon awaits thee. Fortunately this music matches the class of this modern Black Metal act, a one man band from Portland Oregon. Its got all the shades of Progressive, Post and Shoegaze, not wondering far from the American blueprint, culminating in a sweet experience of darkly voyages into the symphonic abyss.

Two of its four tracks reside more so in the traditional lane. Entropic Hallucinations opens up with a devilish, infesting blast beat and snaky grinding guitar riff played with an allure aided from a sweep effect cruising past its hurtling rhythm like icy winds. Ephemeral Eternities, being the other, also has cunning execution of blast beats with rapid tom drum fire. Going through progressive structures that "follows ones nose" so to speak, they embark on arrangements of tremolo riffs, maniacal drumming and screams both guttural and shrill that check all the boxes of familiarity with inklings of particular bands as influences on this flavorful journey of scale.

The records production to be merited. Phobos Monolith for all its extremities is masterfully mixed to make cushioned and warm tones of all its instruments. They reside within reverberated spaces to amplify its cosmic, astral leaning in theme. The song writing is also champion, it can lock in your attention for fifty minutes as these songs twist, wind, soar and scale. Album opener Weaving The Thread Of Transcendence take a prize for the most progressive track, starting from mysterious embers it stokes a flame that turns into a roaring fire of color as the song blossoms with bright guitar leads and plundering unions with a hurtling momentum stoked by the drumming.

Noumenon rocks the shoegazing strand strongly on a warm and colorful track that almost sways into Alcest territory if it wasn't for snarling, viscous screams anchoring it to darkness. As mentioned before this record has many flavors and they come together sweetly. A very solid record, perhaps just shy of greatness, missing something exceptional. Its foundation is bedrock but never quite exceeds itself. Very impressive, I will be back to check out more of this band soon!

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 21 June 2019

Future "Save Me" (2019)


The self titled Future was a fun record. I found it in the perfect mood for some fun Trap flavor. Fancying some more I went for this new EP but the seven track Save Me offers isn't quite that. Future experiments with a new direction while still operating within the Trap and Mumble Rap circle. The Atlanta rapper brings a host of producers onboard to create a sound very much following in the footsteps of Travis Scott. The result is hit and miss, mostly miss, on the production front. Future's braggadocio and excessively slurred and stylized wording leaves much to be desired but generally amplifies the beats that don't land as well with shallow lyrics. There is a loose theme of drug abuse and mental health but it drops off after the opening track, resurfacing vaguely in spots.

There is a lot of glossy reverb, auto tune and voicing at work. It has a soft Ethereal edge with its indulgent tone but can barely escape the grasp of its influences. Many bursts of vocal groans and discernible auto tune inflections reek of Rodeo, even arrangements and constructs have a uncanny blueprint. A merit is found with Shotgun, a poppy sung vocal hook reigns in the airy atmosphere at work. Its sunny, uplifting but with a belly of melancholy. Very catchy but little else of the record finds this chemistry and with a lack of engaging lyricism the Trap and Mumble tropes end up being rather irritating. Unfortunately its mostly forgettable.

Favorite Track: Shotgun
Rating: 3/10

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Living Colour "Stain" (1993)


I may just close the book on this particular musical avenue. A staleness is setting in from a band in steady decline. Their sparkling debut Vivid was quite the experience but since then the re-arranging of influences isn't landing anywhere significant. This time around a tonal rawness and Industrial edge are introduced. Its crass production takes a step back again, the guitar tone has a loose, gritty tone, fit for Thrash and Hardcore riffs but lacking glue. Its on a separate plane from the bass guitar and the musical aesthetic has a sparseness Glover barely holds together with his singing.

His presence is warm in tone, smooth in delivery but the lyrics are handled bluntly. Ideals and topics are persuaded through plain language that sounds so of the time and frankly dated. Its socially and political oriented as you'd expect and the themes range from wealth guilt to sexuality and all of them are expressed with little room for reflection. Essentially I am listing points where this record doesn't resonate. Nothing here is truly awful but the record passes without any attention grabbing moments.

Vernon Reid does get to flash off his advantageous guitaring ability with wild, erupting, dazzling solos however they arise from mediocrity which dampens the impact. There is actually a fair arsenal of thrash and groove riffs in the mix but something in albums raw aesthetic dispels any magic. Auslander is a good example of a track set to bang. Its got a driving Industrial backbone and rowdy baseline yet the two don't gel and the song drifts into a monotone, lifeless drone that chops and churns its way by.

Leave It Alone is about the only song that really has something going for. The rest just gets by on a limb, then Wtff arrives with a turn table break beat jam and the record drops of completely for the remaining few songs. Its a strange record because its loaded with good riffs and interesting elements but none of it fuses and the whole thing is left stiff and stale. Its disappointing but not awful, worth a spin but no more.

Favorite Track: Leave It Alone
Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Annotations Of An Autopsy "World Of Sludge" (2019)


Annotations Of An Autopsy... here is a band Id not thought of in some time! They were once the brief obsession of my friendship group back in the boom era of the emerging Deathcore music scene. It was mostly their utterly vile and misogynist lyrics that would grab attention. The music was equally disgusting, an ugly cesspit of pig squeals, Sludge, Death Metal and Slam that doesn't hold up well over a decade later.

I was initially excited upon seeing news of their return with a short five track EP. For some reason I thought the absense might yield a new matured perspective on their former "brutality". Unfortunately its as if they have been kept on ice, unleashing new music almost ignorant to anything that has happened in Extreme Metal over the last ten years. Even clocking in at under twenty minutes its an utter grind to endure.

This is mostly down to one element, the vocals. The instrumentals are competent in performance, dulled in creativity. Its a typical cramming of guitar chugs, snaky tremolo melodies and slam grooves, recycling the same stomp over and over. They chop up the drum measures to shift the pace and create plenty of alternating bounces and slams. None of the five tracks reach anything significant. Even the obvious "big moments" of the track seem to muster little more than a reiteration of the song so far.

At the musics forefront vocalist Regan throws out some meaty guttural shouts with gritty texture but this is where things slip up. His utterly wretched pig squeals sound like a joke. These squeals resemble a squawking crow being strangled to death. They are high pitched, ridiculous, shrill and irritating. Its hard to take seriously and the utterly valueless and immature lyrics drag it further into the gutter. It really dispels what little atmosphere is being mustered and puts a downer on the whole thing.

Rating: 2/10

Monday, 17 June 2019

My Weekend At Download Festival 2019


Going for both Saturday and Sunday this year I had some miraculous fortune being in the right places at the right time to miss out on the rain. There was no avoiding the mud though! Not a lick of grass insight, the arena was a mud bath but I got through it and had a fantastic time. Once again the festival delivers on a magic I manage to convince myself is going to run out as the years roll and this year was no exception, the headliners really delivered something special. This year I thought I'd right about the highlights, good and bad, despite catching many more acts over the two days!

Power Trip
I saw this band not so long ago opening for Napalm Death in a small club and they blew me away with their 80s Slayer-alike Thrash Metal. It was great to know they could grab the attention of the festival organizers but a main stage slot was unexpected however given what a mighty show they put on it is no surprise. There strong songwriting for a tried and tested formula really matched the crowd and the probably won over a lot of new fans with an explosive show!

Behemoth
It was my first time catching the Devilish legends Behemoth, their music was a strange translation to summer sunny skies on the main stage but impressive costume design and stage makeup made it work. The performance was engaging and tearing through some strong at utterly dark songs they really made quite the impression as a band I need to get more familiar with!

The Hu
 There was no way I was missing the opertunity to see a Mongolian Metal band! Squeezing into a rammed tent the crowd was electrified to see a really unique and almost drone like vibe emerge from the fusion of Metal and native Mongolian instruments. It went by in a flash! I had checked them out before but this live show really helped bridge a gap in their music.

Batushka
Making their way onto my highlights list for all the wrong reasons. Russian Orthodoxy inspired Batushka had me dead excited for their notorious live show, however taking an age to to set up an elaborate stage of era furnishings and ornaments, their slow arrival to the stage became a drag. Going through some sort of slow candle lighting ceremony they took far to long, overplayed their set time and took more than five minutes between the three songs they churned though doing dull rituals of candle lighting and blessing books. It was a sham and they angered a lot of fans with the poor execution of their show. It did not translate to festival restraints.

Die Antwood
 Hear the booming bass from the Tent where Batushka were dampening spirits I was dead excited to catch the quirky South African Rave Rap duo! Unfortunately I only caught the trail end of their set however it was an absolute riot! The sound system was blaring and their energy on the stage was phenomenal. I couldn't help but move. Its really nice to have something break the flow of similar music being played around the festival. Would have loved to have seen more of it, shame about set overrun but these things happen.

Slipknot
 Prior to the show I had been feeling a little hesitant with Joey and now Fenn's departure. It was however a dynamite show from a band who seemed focused on giving us the absolute best. Corey Taylor was pitch perfect and ten years on from one of the greatest shows Id ever seen, the Knot proved they still have it! It was very emotional, strong memories of my social groups bonding over this band in our youth and that feeling of freedom when your inside the song, inside the moment, free of life's burdens. Only a few bands can do that and Slipknot is one of them, with deep cuts like Get This and Scissors it felt truly special.


Cane Hill
 With delays for fans entering the arena Cane Hill has to kick off Sunday to a small crowd however they gave it their all and a being at the front one could get a better appreciation of guitarists unique playing style and use of effects. As a band they have obvious influences from Korn and Nu-Metal however it made clear that they are bringing their own style and it rocked hard!

Alcest
 Ive been waiting a fair few years for my opportunity to catch Alcest and they did not disappoint! Their serine music translated beautifully to the intimacy of the small stage and their enchanting singing was captivating. The sound was impeccable and these songs came to life on the stage! Wonderful set.

Whitechapel
 Ive never gotten that deep into this Deathcore band however of the times I have seen them they have always been killer. Clearly oversold on the smallest stage, a rammed audience squeezed in and despite being at the back, barely able to see the stage the sound was impeccable. Their trio of baritone guitars were crushing and they soared through a brutal set of tracks. Perhaps this is an advantage of listening from next to the sound desk!

Smashing Pumpkins
 They feel somewhat like a recent discovery for me. Its always 90s bands that seem to get to my heart and I would have been thrilled for this show had I not seen them earlier in the year. It seems they are good friends with Amalie Bruun of Myrkur. They brought her out to do a Black Sabbath cover together which has a special atmosphere to it. Their show was reasonable, amazing set design but It feels like they have ambled through the last fifteen years missing out on the opertunity to establish themselves as a headline act. Billy's stage presence is left to be desired between songs but the performances themselves were fantastic.

Slayer
Its farewell to the legendary Slayer from this side of the pond. I would of loved to see the whole show but the beginning was absolute fire and ever over thirty years into it they can still pull of their songs with a manic intensity. Tom sounded fierce and the live show is certainly not the reason they are calling it curtains. There was a huge fan turn out for the legends but I had to leave early to get my spot for Tool.

Tool
They have been my band of choice to "get into" this year. Many, many hours churning through their discography, which seemed so difficult to get at first. Having got through every record I made the drive north listening to Tool and really starting to connect with the music in anticipation. Live music always has this magic and I shouldn't of been surprised to have it unleashed again. At first the show felt a little underwhelming, no cameras on the band and nothing but trippy visuals plastered across the big screens. It didn't take long for me to realize how much the band wanted the show to be about the music. Their flawless executions of dense and difficult music became a beacon of light and all of a sudden I felt that "strangeness" around their music disappear. It made complete sense, I was converted to a die hard fan and blasted nothing but Tool on the late drive home too. An utterly amazing show to end the weekend on.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Windows96 "One Hundred Mornings" (2018)


I've always maintained a key interest in Vapourwave, the Internet's own truly international and border-less music scene. The unfortunate problem is quality. This is a genre plagued by low effort releases, often hinged around pitch shifted and time stretched re-sampling. It makes discovery hard but luckily Ive found this Brazilian musician who operates under the Windows96 pseudonym. They have the theming and aesthetics down and I'm happy to report the music is there too!

One Hundred Mornings gets off to a reasonable start with slightly off kilt drum arrangements and quirky synth tones taking up most of the focus. It builds atmosphere and steadily lures one into its particular vibe, a mesh of nostalgia tones and childish wonder. Its kitsch snippets of obscure cartoon sounds bouncing of the multiple layers of resonant synths has it start with its magic muffled somewhat.

As the song Visions I kicks in, the samples draw back and a lead instrument whirls around, dancing in the winds above its clunky drum groove and blocky baseline. Its here that the record gets into a stride, unleashing inspiring melodies and swelling with emotions. Its wobbly keyboards and murky low fidelity tricks find a warm cohesion where the aesthetic and music really start to compliment one another.

The pivot feels somewhat inspired by 80s Synthpop, the chord arrangements and notations of Bliss seeming almost like a Tears For Fears song re imagined through a new set of sounds. Its a very enjoyable record, warm uplifting mellow moods through the lens of nostalgia play, acting as if it resides in a infatuated past. The off kilt and sample oriented components don't hit home as hard but when the real musical composition comes through it shines bright in these lovely surges of swooning melody.

Favorite Tracks: Visions I, Bliss, Rituals
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Hunt The Dinosaur "Dankosaurus" (2019)


Ive been anticipating this one and boy has it delivered! My recent discovery of this comical Extreme Metal outfit through youtube led me to their reasonable self titled EP. Five years on the group flourish on their promise with a refined approach to the music that is both fun, brutal, ridiculous and absurd. Their sound is a monstrosity in itself, a post-Deathcore Djent hybrid focused on unhinged and unconventional grooves, subverting expectations and further abstracting already outlandish ideas.

Its utterly ridiculous lyricism extends into the music as many Djent riffing styles and Deathcore Breakdowns are blown out of proportion to an amusing degree of delight. Its a well produced album with utterly slamming low end guitar texture and crisp punching drums that rock ear bleeding riffs alongside the mammoth screams and guttural howls. Its ultra slick union signifies a real intent to push these ideas further down the gutter and its fair to say they pull it off with an absolute roaring flair.

Vocalist Hunter Madison's raspy scream raps are an utter delight, totally deranged and unique, he sounds dangerously manic, unleashing throaty raps that hurl themselves at the listener. Its a textural treat of aesthetic and rapid flow but lyrically its a bankrupt self indulgence of excesses expressed through blunt and filthy language that has me thinking he may just be deadly serious at time. The record kicks off holding back the rap aspect and as the songs roll on we get more and more of it.

The instrumentals don't budge from the brutal formula. Sporadic use of screeching guitar noise and jarring electronics keep it flavorful and exciting but Hunter's rhymes seem to come across more and more like a mumble rapper words. Simplistic lyricism and excessive vulgarity, drug abuse and misogyny dominate the songs in the back end. As a comical parody they are amusing but as a serious earnest expression its somewhat foul. Despite that one hiccup based on my personal preference this is a solid debut from a band who are backing attention grabbing ideas with solid music.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 10 June 2019

Arkhtinn "最初の災害" (2018)


Putting an end to their sequential roman numeral releases seems fitting as the French artist Arkhtinn dispels composition issues that often stunted the flow of the last few records. Its quite the feat to create fluid songs at twenty minutes of length and with this release we are treated to two full Metal tracks, the ambient half being ditched which is probably for the best given their mediocrity. The Japanese title translates "First Disaster" of which the two tracks are first and second. Its another plunge into the depths of darkness, hurtling through the nothingness on a roller coaster of intensity.

Once again the production advances with a crisper tone but one that is notably sharp and angular. I never felt like I quite adjusted to it and the muddiness that emerges in the wall of sound. It is however perfectly capable of birthing the cold astral void the music roars from beyond. Its main vocal component is a wretched howling shriek mixed slightly above the over instruments. Its cutting, a little grating, just two things that jerk the ears in an otherwise excellent musical experience. Both songs tend to elongate the process, where VI blitzed through its riffs and arrangements these two tracks stretch them out and pace the progression leading to many satisfying out bursts of conclusion after the intense pummeling. It should be said though this works far better as background music. When giving it your soul focus the cycling of sections can go on for minutes and the intense blast beats and guitar shredding feels like a drone.

That is mostly true of the first song though. On the second I only recall two moments of the Darkspace chug guitars stomping into the fold. It actually feels rather welcome after twenty five minutes of relentless fire. Its this song that has more experimental wonder to it. The glistening astral synths get to peak through a little more and some "evil riff" guitar work reminds me fondly of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia in places as it breaks up the blast beats and give the song some dynamism to its flow. The song has a greater range of peaks and really goes out on a high with its ascending cascading chord progressions in the final quarter. It is really this song along the makes the record special, the first pales in comparison. Can't wait to see whats next!

Favorite Track: 二番
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Radiant Mind & Steve Roach "HelioSphere" (2019)


In need of indulgent ambiences and meditative music I turned to Steve Roach again, who has an large and extensive collection of records under his belt at now 64 years of age. Dreamtime Return had, excuse the pun, returned to my consciousness, setting a spiritual atmosphere for my yoga practice. Looking for a new flavor I picked out this collaboration with Radiant Mind. Eight tracks and sixty four minutes of calm and soothing, gentle streams of sound to evoke peace and reflection. Its all steady and linear, temporal music stripped of event and urgency. All chapters offer different pallets and arrangements of synths and reverberation conjuring safe and warm atmospheres that also feel a fraction of mystery as an astral component blesses the music. One can feel the stars graciously drifting by in the stillness it masters with its layers of yawning, hazy sound drifting in and out of focus, just a grasp away.

The seventh track takes a slight and welcome detour from this construct. Ironically similar to Yagya, who's new Stormur release I recently covered, it has a pulse from start to end, a subdued dub beat gently droning its monotone pulse through the spine of the song. It adds a little pace and movement to the track as a key instrument lingers around the attention it draws, coming in and out of focus like the breath. Like the other songs there is little progression to the sound design yet the beat gives it a sense of presences the others don't have. It stands in contrast but works in the overall run time which is less about a bigger picture and more about minutes in which to loose your thoughts to the persuasive calmness. Its a simple and effective formula executed well enough to reach that space and feeling of inner peace.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Old Tower "Finsterströmung" (2019)


From disappointment to delight, today we have a release Id been anticipating for some time. In the few days since its released Ive binged and enjoyed every moment of the mysterious and esoteric experience. It is the first new project from Old Tower this year and the second of the "grim alchemy trilogy"... Ill admit that made me chuckle for some time. The first chapter was Drachenblut and like it, three dark and meditative tracks are assembled for a short plunge into a conspiratorial loneliness of abandoned hallways and crumbling ruins where mischief lurks beyond the shadows.

There is a clearer sense of voicing than I remember, as the artist moves further away from the core styling of Dungeon Synth. Once again choral synths are woven in with deep reverberations and atmospheric vibrations. In the mix a monk like voice sounds lost in between layers of foggy sound on Saturn's Essence. It has a menacing pace as strikes of drums echoing from the deep create an unsettling presence lurking in the beyond, keeping one on edge. The following title track is my favorite, the construct is similar but a lighter tone dominates as bells and star like synth glisten with a dark magical energy. Given the trilogy name, it is this track I can most envision some musky robed magician hunched over a messy workbench of chemicals and jars of animal parts. Its not a striking image but it would suit the musics pallet.

Moonchamber sees out the short project on the most minimal of tracks. It builds slowly to the mid point where more voicing come into play as the monk returns. They are now cries from the depth lingering on a collapse into the darkness. The ambiguity here plays a fantastic roll in capturing a moment not fully immeresed in darkness and that is what I like most about Old Tower. How the evil in the music isn't overplayed, its used to explore a wider sense of mystery in darkness. This progression more towards Dark Ambient is fantastic and these three new songs are too, can't wait for the final chapter now!

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 7 June 2019

Yagya "Stormur" (2019)


Excitement and exception falls flat on its face as I rush to pick up a record without a pause to hear it first. Yagya has been a frequent "go to" for a particular mood, the steady pacing, ambient energy and dreamy atmospheres are blissful in the right setting, even calming. This time around the formula has changed, a pivot back towards roots in Dub, Techno and IDM music leaves us with a record more alike a Tangerine Dream album than Brian Eno. The opening couple of tracks have the distinctive soft and airy synths, cushioning the monotone beat and slowly melting into a dreamy atmosphere. It takes off where Sleepygirl left but not for long.

With each track the layer of warm and tranquil synths seem to slip out of focus as the underlying drive of Dub beats seem to become the main narrative. With an unhealthy amount of repetition the musics elongated moments seems to ploy around the microscopic details of the beat and its synths that latch closely. Inflection, tone and volume morphs and transmutes with the occasional kick removal offering up the only variety. Its at this point the songs drone on with that Tangerine Dream quality of winding meandering synths. Its dull, the record may possesses degrees of composure but its long strolls through winding beat manipulation suck out any magic it musters in brief moments. A real disappointment, not my cup of tea that is for sure.

Rating: 2/10

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Violet Cold "Magic Night" (2016)


Hailing from Azerbaijan and claiming to be an "AI simulated music project", this beautifully bleak and tranquil take on Atmospheric Black Metal doesn't gain any special quality from its claimed origins. The aesthetic no doubt is a work of human ear. The shrill tremolo guitar, gently cushioned by reverb, is mixed sweetly alongside deeply uplifting choral synths of awe and wonder. The drums push blast beats on occasion but mostly fall back on half paces with lots of pedal work, holding down a driving tempo for the synths and guitars to create a wash of astral, serene noise to indulge in. Accompanying pianos and glossy synthetic instruments cut through wall of buffering sound to add lead melodies and thematic progressions through rather minimal use of melody as the songs repeat many sections over and over.

Despite its highly repetitive nature and a lack of vocals to shape up passageways, its aesthetic construct is so luscious and intoxicating one will simply drift into the blissful existential beauty. Where does the AI come into this? I suspect that many melodies and drum patterns may have been generated through music tools and stitched together where appropriate. At its core this is very simple and repetitive music but its keen aesthetic design and concepts, like breaking up its wall of sound with piano, interludes keep the music interesting as that uplifting state is returned to after respites. For Amelie may be an exception, a classical piano piece reminding me of VNV Nation melodies and a hint of Chopin too, its hard to think of this song as composed by AI.

The record sustains this blissful construct throughout. Despite a lack of diversity in progression, its shifts in synth tone and varying assembly of the same formula work. The question for me now is how long does this hold up? And where do I find more? This has a similar tone to Saor and Kauan, it could even signal a sub-sub genre within Post-Black Metal. Superb record, almost meditative at times, toning back the aggression from the drums would probably serve it wells as its best passing moments are always on the half beats when the music mellows out and cruises along.

Favorite Tracks: Everything You Can Imagine Is Real, Sea, Silver Moon, Last Day On Earth
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Alice In Chains "Alice In Chains" (1995)


With a distinct shift in style from the likes of Dirt and Facelift, American Grunge and Metal outfit Alice In Chains throw a lot at the wall but little sticks. This self titled release has a clear artistic intention to not repeat themselves, however most of the differing ideas still feel experimental and without cohesion. Most of the music slips into a sludgier, gritty tone with a slow Doom Metal like tempo and atmosphere dominating the vibe. Its on these tracks like the opening Grind we hear a stylistic template that would stay with them to this day. The other half of songs unfortunately fall folly to this lack of glue in the experimentation as some ideas don't gel well.

Its Staley's last studio album with the band and he is somewhat subdued with a lack of those roaring hooks that would soar and sink into you like an infection. His voice is strong and capable but mostly matches the tone of these droning tracks. There are some clear experiments to reach new avenues with his singing, trying different inflections, Nothin' Song being a clear example of both lyric and execution feeling far from the grain. This also extends to Cantrell's riffing style too, mostly its temperate, slowed and washed out grooves creating slow sludgy grooves but these inflections of Country tang and Blues Rock feel off beat when they cut in suddenly.

There is a lot of good, slow moving and moody music here but the chemistry isn't ripe. If this were by another band I may have enjoyed it more however the bar had been set so high. There is also this linger feeling in the music that the band later nailed these sludgy concepts after finding DuVall. Its context given the year may yield it more significance in terms of originality but as we reach the end of this little revivalist journey I am left a little disappointed. It has its moments but at sixty five minutes you have to wade through lengthy songs winding around the main theme to find them.

Favorite Tracks: Brush Away, Head Creeps, God Am
Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 2 June 2019

My Friday At All Points East Festival

 It was Scarlord and Run The Jewels that lured me to Victoria Park for another day at a London Festival. Little did I know what an amazing day of music was awaiting for me among a handful of bands, mostly from the UK, that Id barely heard of before! Good weather and decent festival food made for a good outing that will have me picking up more records than I can listen to as per usual!
 

Scarlxrd
Arriving a little late for the opening act the day kicked off with a booming performance. Scarlxrd and his DJ have a crazy amount of energy on stage. The two went bonkers on stage, exhausting every drop of their youthful energy with wild antics. The DJ makes no mask of the fact he is simply hitting the play button most the time, leaving the decks to rock out with comical expression and a self aware humor that was enduring. Scar's scream raps were electrifying and the whole show felt like a bomb had gone off! I knew it would be special and it was.


Employed To Serve
 Tight UK Hardcore with a hint of Deathcore in the mix. These guys turned up and rocked out hard counter grooves, throw downs and slams with a fair degree of individuality. Not something to sweep you off your feet but they certainly put together a great show and kept the music rolling strong. Their new song Force Fed was killer!


Alice Glass
 With a brief listen on Youtube I thought I wouln't enjoy this so much but something about live music makes it easier to digest. Alice had a timid and lonely presence on stage that made mountains of sense to the tone of Her esoteric and ethereal take on noise, glitch and electronica. It had an engrossing atmosphere held firmly together by the driving beats of the drummer. Great show.


Yonaka
My engagement was a little subdued by chowing down on some hot food but standing at a distance I could really appreciate her voice. What initially seemed like fluffy Pop Rock turned out to have some subtlety diverse influences and quality composition that made for very enjoyable and inviting music with her voice being the main pull.


IDLES
 Arriving a little late and looking for a spot in the shade to sit It didn't take long for IDLES to suck me in. Lead vocalist Joe Talbot grabs attention with his plain spoken style, deadpan sense of humor that sticks to his liberal political views that dominate crowd interaction between songs. As the songs delve into marching repetitions of percussion led Industrial Rock and Post-Punk grooves, he again brings forth thought and commentary that aligns with a somewhat frustrated overtone.


Sleeping With Sirens
Not exactly my cup of tea but live most things sound decent and this Pop Rock group were alright. From a distance I watched as they burned through bright and glossy rock songs with a tinge of Metal attitude in places. Lots of pretty melodic overtones akin to Metalcore too, was a good listen.


Nothing By Thieves
Possibly the most impressive show from the bands I knew not of. Brooding music, building its momentum to climactic outbursts resonated through the incredible voice of Conor Mason. You could really see the feeling in his performance, strong and emotional Rock music with an experimental edge in their slightly disjointed rhythm guitars. Great set.


While She Sleeps
As the sun came out in full force I found myself hanging back in the shades. Reasonable timing since I knew what I was in for, a banging Hardcore, Metalcore, Deathcore hybrid with strong melodic overtones. I'd seen them before and I wasn't pulled in any closer despite them having some strong moments in the set, it didn't appeal to me all that much.


Run The Jewels
I had waited all day for Run The Jewels, this would of been the forth time seeing them. The sound was garbage right at the front so I dropped back and the Hip Hop duo were phenomenal once again. Their music translates wonderfully live. I love how the set transitions from hard bangers into the deeper, moving and meaningful songs. They put a message to their performance and it went by in a flash. Best of the day by far!


Architects
 Chowing down on some hot Paella De Veduras I lurked at the back and once again Architects blew me away with an amazing live show. I still don't know how I'm yet to pick up a record of theirs, Ive seen them many times now and its always a fantastic performance. Really solid, booming Metalcore with plenty of blow away riffs. They sounded sharp as ever and really put on a show.


Bring Me The Horizon
Its probably a matter of time before the once hated, dirty Deathcore goons Bring Me The Horizon will headline Download Festival. Promoting new record Amo in front of a smaller crowd they proved themselves good for a headline show with adequate set design and costumes to match. They perhaps took a bit to much time between songs and with intervals but the crowd enjoyed the interactions from front man Oli Sykes with his crazy colored eye lenses. He brought out Danni Filth in full makeup too for a brief appearance and it was great to see such a strong response for their old music as Pray For Plagues fired up mosh pits. The new music sounds great too and I was a bit gutted to leave early, walking hastily out as the music went on. Great show and I am amazed how I never realized what " Your full of sugar, honey, ice and tea" meant till its anagram was plastered on the big screen.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Beastmaker "Eye Of The Storm" (2019)


It feels like there may be a trend emerging in Metal, one of quality too. Since Ghost have risen to prominence, inklings of classic Metal ideas are resurfacing in the likes of Puppy, Green Lung & Baroness, the latter bearing a strong influence on this group. Beastmaker are a three piece outfit from California who off the back of two full lengths spent 2018 banging out ten four track EPs. That's a prolific output and this new four track is their first of the year, its also my introduction to the group. I'd also like to compliment the group on their awsum record artwork aesthetics, a sharpened revival of 60s satanic horror defined by high contrast and bold use of selected de-saturated colors. Its fantastic and a really alluring, eye grabbing style that brought me to them.

The bands music is a hybrid of "traditional" and Doom Metal. A raw, gristly distortion lays down temperate, forward moving chunks of rhythm and melody over equally gritty and fuzzing baselines. The two link up at times like a pair of rhythm guitars, gnarly in the deep end and smoothing out into the higher notes. It allows them to sound like a four piece when the solos light up like a rocket. They have all the makings of classic styles, taking off with an eruption to capture your attention and swoon with their colorful presence. The music also deploys timely bells and synth elements, not over played, sounding very natural. Its a little ugly with its power chords but as classic Iron Maiden like leads come to fruition it finds a magic driving through with its melody licks.

As said before its mainly on the singing style that Baroness have a influence on singer Church. Something about the inflections, timing of delivery and strains on his voice feels strikingly alike to Baizley. The trio have a vibe and with creepy, Horror and Occult inspired lyricism. It brews a fun, expressive stage of theatrics, very much contained within the musics setting. These songs play out with strong fundamentals. A good ear for riffs and linking them together in solid structures that often play into melodic breaks that evolve into solos or climaxes. Its pure Metal and they rock their niche well. I will have to have a poke around through their now extensive collection of records for something else of interest as I do very much enjoy this classic, revivalist sound!

Favorite Tracks: Eye Of The Storm, My Only Wish
Rating: 5/10