Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Queen "Flash Gordon" (1980)


Its been a while since I covered the last Queen record, reality is Id only given this a handful of spins. Its been rather unappealing. Of the rare occasions I have indulged, I would find myself bored by its shifts and sudden turns if it were not for the mere spectacle of a band pinned into a creative corner. I don't know much of the backstory here, or how the music relates to the movie itself. I'd prefer to keep that a mystery as it plays like a band attempting to be drastically different but constants leave them unable to flesh out experimental ideas and directions.

The theme song for Flash is a classic, no doubt. Ive heard it many times but it makes a poor jump off point for the record as it never returns to that intensity and thematic richness until the very last songs. The biggest stirs of energy often spark from the themes erroneous rehashing back into future songs. Sporadic bursts of synthesizer zaps and symphonic upheavals reign out between lines of dialog that feel disconnected and bizarre in nature. Its hard to envision it being the direct soundtrack, more of a project trying to use the movie for an isolated soundtrack experience, either way its pretty disastrous.

So far I've been harsh and of the nice things I can say they are mostly little musical moments that occur on occasion yet do next to nothing in making the whole thing work. Brian May's metallic guitar stirs some rocking riotous energy on Football Fight, they command direction over the racing beat lined with gaudy synths. The audio samples in this case build up a tension but the song just dissipates without any conclusion and lapses back into a lull as seemingly unconnected spacey astral synths take over. It could of evolved into something but these songs lack progression.

The synths remind me of In The Space Capsule where the those nebulous synth tones provoke quite the mystique atmosphere. Once again though, its all to disconnected as the music meanders with sudden shfts. From here, many of its one to two minute compositions have interesting aesthetics and quirky sparks of chemistry but its all littered between sharp turns in tone and audio snippets that it becomes hard to follow along with. Battle Theme would be a great example of the band doing what they do best however the song is hampered by sticky laser zaps and ear grating synths that rub against the slick guitars.

It is perhaps possible to love this record for all its quirkiness, shifts in direction and musical experiments. For me I couldn't escape how its attempt to be some form of soundtrack was hindering the flow of ideas. Things were rarely fleshed out and when the music was calling out for some progressive story telling and journeying of the sounds, it felt forced and hurried along, as if sticking to a strict schedule. Poor record, It hasn't convinced me to see the movie although I am morbidly curious now as to how the two are related.

Favorite Tracks: Flash's Theme, Football Fight, The Hero
Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Front Line Assembly "Wake Up The Coma" (2019)


Having enjoyed the Canadian Electro-Industrial pioneer's recent Warmech soundtrack, I thought I'd tune in for a regular record. Right off the bat I have to say their is a lot of mediocrity at play, a passable record as background music but not mustering up much excitement in the forefront bar a few good compositions. Ive given it many listens over the months since its release but its failed to grab me, I can't be to critical though, its not terrible, just all too average to make itself known.

Far from the jolty, harsh and rigid machinations of their origins, FLA's slick production gives a modern aesthetic touch. Tight synth arrangements and punchy drum machines have a competent amount of variety and detail to bolster up the core components that build dystopian, mechanical atmospheres. Voices take on a mix of whispered cries soaked in echos and alien distortions, all playing into the altered human persona much of its charisma resides within. There are many breaks in flow, often using the textural tones of synths and clattering drum sounds to orchestrate physical, Industrial movements but its rarely exciting in anyway.

Most the songs tend to circle a theme. Progression don't amount to much and most of the tracks start where they end in terms of tone and setting. That's why I think its failed to get a grip on me. It does run into a few gaudy moments, the lyrical pondering of making love to an alien on Living A Lie is mostly an amusing line for a hook. Nick Holmes turns it around in the next track, lending his voice for a fantastic chorus on the title track. That's about all I have to say, its all a bit too routine, lacking spice.

Favorite Track: Wake Up The Coma
Rating: 4/10

Friday, 8 November 2019

Borknagar "True North" (2019)


Borknagar, I remember! The glum shed on a fog swept field, a typically unreadable and yellow band logo atop the image. Their first album came out right in the mid 90s boom of post-global exposure Black Metal. Knowing they had ICS Vortex in the lineup, once of Dimmu Borgir and Arcturus, I felt quite keen to find out what one of my favorite voices was up to. To little surprise, the band have matured a lot from what I remember of that atypical, dingy, carbon copy debut record, the sort that just fell off into the flood of new bands joining in on the act.

To my pleasure they now take on moody atmospheres of northern folk charm. With sprinklings, often climatic, of screams, blast beats and power chord shredding, the band evenly resonate a calmer side brewing luscious settings of serenity interwoven with metallic upheavals of momentum. Its a progressive fusion of styles, rather adjacent to In The Woods. Dark and earthly songs forged through thoughtful musical arrangements sap magic from its instruments with visions of natural beauty.

Vortex's singing is an absolute pleasure, still a master of the gleaming, manly "clean vocal", he glides over these scenic soundtracks effortlessly. Its organic music with soft synths and colorful lead guitars. The three tend to interchange on leading the music forth and its held together with superb drumming that's a little on the mechanical side with its industrious hammering of stiff drum rolls. Quite often does the rhythmic syncopation of Metal guitars drive the music too and with that True North offers up variety and balance between the extreme and melodic ends of this style. Inspiring!

Favorite Tracks: Up North, Voices
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

BABYMETAL "Metal Galaxy" (2019)


My anticipation for this record was soured somewhat by lead single Pa Pa Ya. Its a tad obnoxious and overt but that's one of this acts charms, to dial its elements up! I still think its the weaker track but it has grown on me. The rest of this new record was a total hit from the get go. Da Da Dance blasts the listening experience into the stratosphere with its electrifying guitar taping illuminating the jolting synths and cutesy "Babymetal" chant. What a tone setter for a fun record that does what these musicians do best, bringing ferocious modern Metal together with sugar coated Pop in quirky memorable fusions. This time around a hint of worldly sounds creep onto a couple of songs, expanding the bands horizons, delivering another fine chapter in the journey.

Something about the way this record rolls out, a couple of its themes too, give a sense of arcade and adventure. Its almost as if each song has a linage with a video game. Each one I could envision a music video related to the arcade, perhaps the "don't give up, game over or continue" lyrics sunk in a little to deep. Every track arrives with a different spice, only Kagerou sounds like a leftover cut from Metal Resistance. Shine also echos of The One but mostly its new and bold territory for the band while retaining their distinctive musical identity and high octane production.

Japaneses exclusive tracks BBAB and BXMXC are wonderfully obnoxious in polar opposite ways. The first has its glossy Pop Metal charm and the latter an exercise in sheer rhythmic grooving on overdrive! Shanti and Oh Majini stand out with exotic cultural sounds, the latter dipping toes into Pirate Metal with bagpipes and rugged sailor chanting. Their is a noticeable growing presence of the backing musicians joining in vocally. "Kitsune Of Metal God" gets an entire track of demonic chants through its descending, eerie and tribal atmosphere on In The Name Of.

Its jam packed with variety and amazing hooks to get stuck in your mind. More voices may enter the fold but again its Suzuka Nakamoto who's voice soaks in the limelight, elevating every moment she is present. I particularly loved the songs where she gets to sing in a poppier context. It feels like this record has pushed its boundaries as the heavy side feels equally embellished. Maybe the drumming didn't ramp up the intensity with blast beats and the like but the Djent guitar tones are masterfully dense an tonal, bordering on guttural for comparison. Perhaps the meatiest Ive heard yet!

Much like their other two records, gems and numbers that don't stick as much make the sum of its parts. This time around the variety carries it and plays solidly with an arsenal of new songs. It has been a pleasure to indulge with and a reminder of why this band are so exciting. Anything is possible in Metal and these directions and avenues are so much more interesting that other bands grinding out the same old recycled styles. Babymetal's freshness is a real strength! It's hard to say if they have reached a peak but each record gives my that feeling they could reach higher peaks!

Rating: 8/10
Favorite Tracks: Da Da Dance, Brand New Day, BBAB, Distortion, BXMXC,

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Puppy "III" (2019)


With the years best album so far under their belt, The Goat, this surprise EP was quite the treat to feast on, I didn't expect new music so soon! The three piece band Puppy are one of my modern favorites, their fusion of nostalgic 90s Alternative Rock & Metal riffs is just my cup of tea. Its the songwriting however, that sets them apart from waves of bands that come and go, casting that rosy tinted look back into the past. Puppy take in a rich history of music, brandishing it with their own defining stamp.

These nine tracks, a brief nineteen minutes, initially felt as demoed as its presentation would suggest. Its mixing, rough around the edges, with roomy drums and earnest singing gave a casual impression that would flavor my first few listens as a mediocre yet fun set of songs. The songwriting however championed once again as the ear worms grew, driving the hooks and melodies into the subconscious. Its riffs, arrangements and lyrics became forefront. It wasn't long before I was asking myself just how good this record is? Right now it fits perfectly into their catalog.

Without doubt there is a handful of songs here that given the treatment would fit snugly onto a proper album. They all however have a charm that feels exclusive to this rougher garage demo sound and I think the point is to inhabit this moment the band are living in. The raw vocal harmonies and chunky guitar riffs with gristly distortion tones create a youthful air vibe that resonates through the colorful guitar licks that occasional deploy a bit of rhythmic groove. Its everything I like about Puppy, just with a less polished edge which makes it fresh and interesting.

Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Agatha, Serotonin, Charms

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Korn "Untouchables" (2002)


Recently Ive had to revisit a particularly turbulent time in my youth and now I find myself having the perfect opportunity to talk about a record I've always wanted to get around too. Its my favorite Korn record and there was a period many years back where I couldn't listen to a song from it without being brought to tears. Fortunately I got past that and learned to embrace what had once been, allowing me to enjoy the record again. Obtaining Untouchables a while after its release, I only briefly knew of Freak On A Leash yet immediately bonded with every word Jonathan Davis was singing from his soul. I felt as if each word was everything I was going through. This was right around some of the most difficult lows Id go through and as a troubled kid trying to find themselves it offered a bitter escape and meaning.

My appreciation of this record is obviously testament to those moments, however till this day I still think this is JD's apex moment as a vocalist. His lyrics, as angst riddled and raw with pain they are, are delivered in the most soaring and soul wrenching performance. That pain and its meaning embellishes itself in the scaling heights of melody he inflects on his words, turning song after song into a truly moody and moving internal odyssey. The highs and lows, cleans and growls seem to twist and turn in an endless stream of deeply emotive singing. He frequently layers his voice to add an extra instrumental depth and the hooks, inflections and catchy-ness of it all is sublime, getting me to sing and feel it every time.

Behind him the band bottle up their most heavy and ambitious sound to date, taking their stomping sense of groove to a smothering wall of sound that has a thick tonal assault. The classic rumbling slap base of Fiedly quakes from bellow and Silveria batters his kit in tandem. Many of the songs have thudding stomps of syncopated guitar assault and the Monkey Head dynamic is disrupted as the oddball noises and creepy melodies that usually defined them get channeled into atmospheric avenue instead of the back and forth. Brilliant song writing lets the heavy gives way to rich passing of melody deployed with the help of electronic sounds too, sometimes at the same time but with less of their iconic duality. Its the perfect stage for JD to illuminate.

The album plays sweetly with no weak links, the heavy tracks are periodically broken up by the likes of Hollow Life, Hating and Alone I Breaking, deploying drum machines and hitting heavy from another angle with JD delivering more utterly sincere and heart breaking lyrics. This record barely lets up on the depressing mood but its truly therapeutic, voiced by a man battling with his inner demons head on. Untouchables finds one moment of absolute fun with the crude and enthralling Beat It Upright, a favorite. Thoughtless plays like an anthem for the trodden down and it all ends on gut wrenching high with No One's There. I could rattle on about each of the tracks distinctions for time but that is for you to discover!

Its quite sad to think critics hailed it Korn's worst album upon release. I can't comment without a heavy dose of bias but seventeen years later its still utterly engulfing and sometimes all to vivid as these songs take me back to that moment. I haven't forgotten a line of JD's words and I think for a record to be this potent after so long its got to have something more to offer. The bands first five albums are all gems, so hard to pick apart but artistically I think Jon's performance is what tips it for me. Never did he before or probably ever again give quite the scintillating performance like here.

Rating: 10/10

Monday, 28 October 2019

Danny Brown "Uknowhatimsayin¿" (2019)


For his last major release Danny dazzled with a wild unhinged experimental Atrocity Exhibition. Its flamboyant nature and eccentric charm seems to have been turned on its head. This time Brown delivers a lean and fresh collection of songs that feel isolated from one another yet all land a strange dissonance. Selecting oddball instrumentals, his raw voice recording aesthetic adds this layer of separation between beat and rhyme that initially left me not knowing what to make of the project.

With plenty to say, the rhymes in the best moments are unbelievably sharp, witty and well articulated. Layered with elements of comedy, story telling, self deprecation and vulnerability he musters up some engaging flows that topically chop and turn at pace. Brown's cadence often feels a step off the beat, free and loose yet holding its own flow of continuous verbal packages to unwrap. It may also be the percussive grooves mustering this illusion as they are often untypical of a groove to rap along with.

The moods and temperaments of the samples and beats shift all over the place, never slipping into anything too banging or obvious, always focused on the power of subtler chemistry. Run The Jewels turn up to stamp their style on a JPEG beat and Q-Tip produces a couple of my favorite cuts that have the Jazz Hop lean. This wild variety in production aids producer White in delivering striking esoteric and Ethereal sounds that stood out among a lot of great instrumentals. With every listen this record reveals more, its got depth and substance rammed into its thirty three minutes.

Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Change Up, Belly Of The Beast, Best Life, Uknowhatimsayin¿, Combat

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Shade Empire "Omega Arcane" (2013)


I've sunk my teeth in deep on this one, enjoying its immersion over and over. Some albums present a charm that once familiarity sets in it can vanish. In the case of Omega Arcane it has a gift that will keep giving for years to come. So rather than write up my thoughts on this excellent record, I thought Id keep it in rotation for some time longer and with that has come a great appreciation for this meaty CD filling seventy four minutes of Orchestral Black Metal. Hailing from the UK, Shade Empire have out done Dimmu Borgir at their own game, specifically the Abrahadabra era where the Norwegians steered their iconic Symphonic incorporation of keyboards to actual in house orchestras. I do however feel they lost their charm in this transition.

Alongside the commonplace barrage of relenting blast beats, howling screams and aggressive guitar work, Shade Empire deploy a range of tonality in the symphonic avenue. String sections, brass instruments, trumpets and horns, even striking orchestral drum strikes. It has a rich depth that effortlessly blends into the metallic cascade of intensity. This also extends into more typical keyboard synths, electric pianos and on occasion furthering into the tonality of synth led music as no idea seems out of reach if it fits the billing. Its best heard in interluding journeys where drum machine deployment reminds me of the E.S. Posthumous fusion of Classical, modern indulgent Electronic elements and atmosphere aiding drum machines.

 This superb cohesion provides stunning depth with its rich layers of symphonic sound, underpinned by the crushing pummeling of crunchy guitars chugging tempered grooves. The slick rattling of rapid, dexterous drumming shudders like a pulse, slaming through it all with a commanding guidance to hold everything together. Its all rather intense, with each instrument the potential to overpower is present but they slickly achieve a balance and let the musical writing beneath elevate the aesthetic chemistry. The screeching vocals too have intensity but fortunately variety favors as deep guttural whispering tells tales, playing up the epic fantasy narrative the record has in droves. With a few voices at play, it shapes up well, avoiding staleness.

With such an engrossing musical construct, everything is set in place for endearing song writing to play out a rather diverse set of songs that meet in this fantasy realm of snow and storms. With many measures of temperament the songs can shift intensities while never letting up on a luscious layer of orchestral sound. It all feels rehearsed to deliver stunning swells of emotion as the so called crescendos and peaks seem to roll out in frequency. Its seventy plus minutes never seem to drag feet, each track firing up its unique take on the pallet available and with the start of each new number comes the reminder of the moments in store, yet to unravel there treausres. It also arrives between slews of ambience leaning atmospheric passageways that enrich the theme.

So far its all been praise and the reality is I can't think of anything to criticize. At first I may have had thoughts of preferring certain ideas to be executed differently but with time absolutely everything about this record makes sense to itself. There isn't even think there is a song worth gutting, the bar of quality is that high. The best tracks are however rolled up in the albums opening but even at the other end Slumbering Giant and the title track are very convincing songs that have just as much immersion.

What we have here on Omega Arcane is an excellent execution of intense Metal music but also a true understanding of the orchestral, electronic and atmospheric side. It feels like a mastery from its both perspectives, perhaps more so the latter. Rather than being used as an accent or aid, this thematic avenue has been fully realized. The chemistry between its two sides is sublime, that's where it stands apart from others who lump in synths as a layer of color. This is a gem I'll cherish for times to come!

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Daryl Donald "Full Circle" (2019)


A second release this year from Scottish producer Daryl Donald brings us another cut of smooth and mellow Jazz Hop beats lined with thoughtful vocal snippets to induce a relaxed mood. By now its become predictable but the best kind. Its a prediction that one can feel cozy and wrapped up, snug and warm inside this world of breezy cool instrumentals that groove easy temperate drum samples under atmospherically arranged samples of calming, soulful and jazzy instruments.

The beats are short and sweet in nature. Being looped and highly repetitive, a balanced is struck as lingering on the theme is avoided. Experimenting with gentle noise, each track has some subtle ambiences, conjuring shapeless forms of ambiguous sound to decorate the main loop. It works fantastically and if absent a vocal feature can drift in with the same breezy easiness that makes this record a pleasure to mellow out to. Its words had less of an impact this time around, but its experiments in ambiguity spark quite the intrigue to their origin.

With its overall swift nature, Get Alive stands out as an odd cut where the audio fades out abruptly jusr as the beat just gets going. Otherwise its a slick flow of cohesive musical grooves. The opening tracks are particularly reminiscent of early 90s Jazz Hop classics. I couldn't put a finger on which tracks but they had a fond familiarity. The closing tracks however pivot to slightly snappier percussion with a soft crunch added to them. Its a gentle transition, just something I noticed on this short album that delivered exactly what I expected but still charmed none the less.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 14 October 2019

Fairyland "The Fall Of An Empire" (2006)


Blown away by their stunning debut, Of Wars in Osyhria, I thought my battle with Power Metal may be turning. It is not so, this sophomore record from the French band has unfortunately solidified the focal point that ruins this style for me time and time again, the singing. With a line up shuffle retaining two of the original band, Maxime Leclercq steps in for the lead vocal role. His pitch and tone rubs me the wrong way on to many an occasion. Stretching and reaching for notes he can't quite grasp leaves a strain. The style is often to forceful and once again the French accent has an uncanny knack to make to add a irritation to the pronunciation. I've always believed in looking for what you enjoy in music but found very little of that here, the singing tarnishes the fantastic instrumentation.

The music itself is a little less charming then last time around. I suspect the vocals may have made it harder to digest but there is an obvious shift in luminosity. The elements of fantasy and wonder still play out through the picturesque synths painting magical landscapes and heroes adventures .This time they are more balanced with the aggressive guitars and drums that clatter along with chomping double pedal rolls battering patterns constantly. Its lively, animated and ambitious but the production is a little thin and raspy in places, the music does however get across well its fantastical themes and fairy tale story telling. Pianos feature frequently and ambitious songwriting births a progressive journey to venture on but as clearly stated the vocals dispel any magic. Its frustrating but it is what it is. The next album has a plethora of vocalists so it will be interesting to see what happens there!

Favorite Track: The Story Remains
Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 12 October 2019

The Comet Is Coming "The Afterlife" (2019)


I'm struck with a sense of disappointment as an exciting discovery, Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, has been swiftly followed up in a matter of months by the London based Jazz Fusion trio. I was dead keen to get on this record, it kicks off with the familiar voice of featured collaborator Joshua Idehen who loaned his voice to Sons Of Kemet. He brings a hype with poetic cries of thought invoking rhymes but bellow him the murmuring base fuzz, spacious percussive grooves and Smooth Jazz saxophone fail to strike a nerve beyond the reasonable. From there the rest of these thirty minutes seem to fall into the same rut of mediocrity. Gone are the tantalizing grooves of obnoxious Metal and thumping EDM music, it recoils back to its roots, dissolving the spice that made this band so interesting and inviting. A dip in form may exacerbate my reaction but a closer analysis seems to further these feelings.

After its opening number, the next two tracks meander through the directionless wandering of low key playing on an ambient setting of bassy synths. Its great background music but little of the musics unraveling is captivating. The first half of Lifeforce has a similar sense of lurking in ambiguity, mustering some suspense for whats to come in the second half where temperate drum grooves and lively two note grooving intertwines with sparse melodies through the saxophone. Its just one song among sleepers. Its final piece reminds me of Vapourwave vibes in a good way, however it too is a sleepy track alluding to an atmosphere that just doesn't engage me. There is nothing bad here, the aesthetics are as gorgeous as before however the low key nature of the music itself turns the whole thing from a jam to a lull that didn't capture an ambient charm, which may have been their intention.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Chelsea Wolfe "Birth Of Violence" (2019)


Singer, songwriter Chelsea Wolfe returns again and with each passing album a new approach is found. This new chapter is a sombre, calm and almost soothing affair. In all its alluring abandon, Chelsea graces us with the haunting softness of her voice. Treated by shadowy reverberations and armed with a desolate acoustic guitar, she strums through the eerie and dreamy atmospheres the two conjure together. Lurking percussion, elements of noise and ambiguity converge on occasion to dial up the mania but much of the album explores the loneliness in voice, mirrored in minimalism where soft airy synths and grave strings may be the only backing.

The records pacing is drawn out as it lingers tortuously on the sadness each song seems to swallow itself in, its temperament dreary and drifting. There is little uplift, light or reprise but despite wallowing in the shadows her beautiful voice gives a sincere weight to the darkness that follows her. It makes for a mourning listen, a doom always present, yet its grace and musical harmony is welcoming. Its a strange dimension, a limbo for all pains to be laid bared and observed but for the listener to remain distant from. Its as if shes shut the lock and thrown away the key.

Birth Of Violence is a finely felt, crafted and expressed experience but for all its stunning harrows, it tends to pass one by in the best of ways. I kept listening to this record over and over. It would always drift towards my subconscious attention, birthing an atmosphere softly dark and painfully warm mood. It was pleasant yet full of suffering. Perhaps that is precisely what she was aiming for, It wasn't until the lens of writing examined my experience that I realized how particular it could be. I couldn't give you a favorite song or stand out moment, the music just exists, engulfs and then its gone with the storm! To say that feels like a conceptual through line.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Ghost "Seven Inches Of Satanic Panic" (2019)

My ignorance in the absence of information has birthed an amazement of these seven minutes. Ghost are one of my favorite bands and between records they tend to divvy out EPs with cover tracks that give quite the insight into their influences. The title is either a topically suggestive or a co-incidental pun on the format or length. This stemmed from my astonishment of the lyrical crudeness on Kiss The Go-Goat. That song and Mary On A Cross both sounded like the blueprint to this bands sound. You see I had purchased the record in a surge of excitement. Its only now that Ive dug deeper in preparation for this post that I learn these are originals! What a derp, what an assumption, here I was thinking I was about to discover some hidden gems from the 60s singing what would of been utter filth for the time.

The two tracks sound even better now. Ghost have mastered the principles of Rock and Pop music from years gone by, reviving them in service of their playful satanic exterior. The result is a luscious and gorgeous wash of harmony and color that's deeply infectious and swooning. Melody is ripe and Tobias Forge relishes in the moment his hired guns have crafted so stunningly. Its so Ghost and still everything I want to hear. The thing is, if these are B-Sides, what on earth do they have in store for us next? These might be two of the best from their catalog to date! Maybe I am still a little dazzled from the excitement of new songs to internalize. Absolutely fantastic none the less, a stellar seven minutes you can spin over and over.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, 30 September 2019

Korn "The Nothing" (2019)


Its going to be a common theme that I mention how time is flying by. Already three years ago now, the Nu Metal pioneers Korn released a positive "come back" record, The Serenity Of Suffering. Although the soaring heights of the late 90s and their MTV dominance are long gone, it was quite the surprise to hear a band that had struggled over the years to regain the spark of their youth and even more so in this new chapter The Nothing. Where the last album delivered powerful riffs and good song writing again, Jonathan Davis seems to have excelled past his band mates with another riveting "tortured soul" performance. At this stage in his life the recurring angsty themes and narrow use of language that again has the word "why" posed all too often seem more genuine than routine. With his band mates on fire they unite again and again with really good hooks for their "Pop Metal" format that drives songs frequently from chunks of groove and quirky melodies into swells of thick, smothering emotion.

The record grew on me slowly. It was familiarity with the actual details of the songs that blossomed the giving magic of music. With a style and identity so ingrained it can be a little to easy to gloss over. Fortunately around the fifth or sixth listen the charm started to sparkle. Korn have a fantastic dynamic of crunching riffs and odd emotive melodies that lean into the moody and brooding. With their front man JD on form, the narrative is illuminated. I would never question his authenticity but with the recent passing of his wife one can see how his eternal battle with inner agony has laid down fresh wounds that brings out the best of his unique talent. Its a sad reality but pain has always been what invigorated his iconic voice.

 The record does get stretched through a few routine songs in the midsection, however the tracks either side always offer up a spice to define it among the general theme, something they haven't achieved since Untouchables. Ray Luzier fits like a glove on this record, his drumming proficiency finds a sweet spot to give percussive detail to the momentum, driving groove with an animated structure. The Monkey and Head dynamic isn't as striking, more like a fine wine, the subtleties tend stick around longer. There are plenty of thumping riffs but the classic style heard on You'll Never Find Me really sounds like stiff a reworking of Ass Itch. The creepy melody aspect tends to linger in the background and through the synths which get a moment on Can You Hear Me for the band to move their atmospheric side into new territory.

Opening with bagpipes and JD's agonizing cries and screams the record sets the tone for whats to come but it wraps up with one of the saddest songs, Surrender To Failure. It ends with a chilling vulnerability in his voice as he confesses his failure with fragility. Its everything Korn has ever been about and although gravely fueled by tragedy it has birthed a band able to re-arrange themselves with fabric of their greatness and a bold statement moving into a new chapter. This won't make waves and revive a former glory but anyone who's ever been a fan will adore this record giving it a chance.

Favorite Tracks: The End Begins, The Darkness Is Revealing, Idiosyncrasy, Gravity Of Discomfort, Surrender To Failure
Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Bæst "Venenum" (2019)


Not long on from discovering this gem of a band, the Danish Death Metal outfit Bæst return, monstrous as ever! Continuing with the brutal Mikael Akerfeldt era Bloodbath sound, they have assembled a collection of lean and powerful, fist clenching tracks to crush and menace listeners with its evil guitar riffs and gut wrenching demonic screams. Broken up only by an equally mediocre Spanish guitar interlude, like before, the record marches through its punishing line up of songs that hold together a brutal atmosphere. Either thumping steady tempos or thrashing hardened sprints, its deployment of intensities always result in gripping gruesome ride through the carnage.

With Nihil the lead guitar emulates Egyptian vibes similar to that of Death Metal legends Nile. Its a true moment of distinction, its winding, unraveling guitar lead is tantalizing and the brooding atmosphere birthed is something to remember. As Above So Below achieves something similar with less of a cultured direction. Again its lead guitar slowly unwinds in a gratifying manor as the song takes its time moving into a crunching dash of grinding aggression. Ending on a Bolt Thrower cover was a nice touch. I don't know the original but the flavoring of this bands aesthetic seems to work wonders. This feels like a steady improvement upon their debut but I think it would serve them well to land on something to stylistically separate them from Bloodbath.

Favorite Tracks: Nihil, Heresy, As Above So Below, Sodomize, No Guys No Glory
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Ho99o9 "Cyber Warfare" (2019)


Less than a year on from one of last years favorites Cyber Cop, the vicious Punk Rock fusing and Hip Hop grooving duo Ho99o9 return with another vivid, conceptual EP that experiments with eerie cyber space hacker aesthetic. Opening up with Master Of Pain, gothic organs conjure an unsettling hallowed horror soundtrack atmosphere for slow tempo percussion to brood and then pivot into a riotous romp of synthetic guitar riffs fit for the pit. The back and forth is fantastic but this new gothic element sets a desire for more that is left alone on this one song. With Plexiglass a smothering, repetitive, obnoxious baseline fills the void akin to something you might hear on a TV commercial. A ridiculous mania of hurling frantic screams quickly stops this in its tracks as it turns up the intensity alongside scratchy discernible noise. At this point it may be hard to stomach for many a music listener.

Shadowrun slams into the Punk energy with fast and energetic guitar riffs, burred screams and pummeling drums. Its ecstatic and highly intriguing as the distortion and production techniques mask much of the instruments in layers of unusual aesthetic. From their the good songwriting emerges as the song leads into a fantastic closing groove played twice over. The end of the song introduces a layer of technological theming as a pitch dropped voice talks of internet connections. There is a few other bits like this but they fail to be interesting in my opinion. The next few tracks brings out the mean and gritty raps, delving into gloomy, dangerous street vibes akin to similar songs heard on their Horrors Of 1999 sophomore EP.

F.O.G. wraps up the record with some serious metallic stomping and tight drum patterns not far from something heard on a Extreme Metal record with its tight double pedal working. The song gets progressively heavier and distorted synths lead up to a ridiculous climax that maybe falls a little short of its intention. Overall this record is another fantastic chapter in what I hope will produce more of this paranoid cyber theming. Its not reached quite the peaks of Cyber Cop but it has produced some remarkable songs once again. This band are very much in a stride and I find myself dead excited for whatever it is they will do next.

Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Master Of Pain, Plexiglass, Shadowrun

Monday, 16 September 2019

Post Malone "Hollywood's Bleeding" (2019)


His previous efforts Stoney and Beerbongs & Bentleys showcased the young artists unique voice and songwriting ability but the best came in fractions. This time around Post and his crew have elevated their game. After a handful of thoroughly enjoyable listens I initially turned to the credits, expectant of new names in production and song writing. There is a couple, however its the same core of people turning up the quality in all the places that fell short the last time around. It's a noticeable ten or so minutes shorter and perhaps that played a part in its fluidity but the reality is the instrumentation here is of a higher fidelity and its got a warm fussy atmosphere to it.

As the songs stroll from one to the next there is often something bright and punchy at work. Either the bold basslines, snappy percussion or glossy guitars illuminate alongside Post's voice. This can be heard best on the Pop leaning songs because of course he has an eclectic taste which has subtle flourishes as the music sways across the spectrum. When delving into the Hip Hop avenue Post brings a plethora of guests to spice up the vocal variety as lyrically he is pegged into to his usual themes. Between that and Pop it is mostly the classic singer songwriter vibes and acoustic guitars that dazzle however he shows his roots in Rock on a fantastic collaboration.

Teaming up with Travis Scott, the voice of Ozzy Osbourne engrosses one again on Take What You Want. The Trap Pop song brings his iconic voice to a new generation and ends with a stunning crescendo reviving those classic Randy Rhodes leads. Possibly the best moment on the record however Post really comes to life with his infectious hooks and singing. We saw it in glimpses the last two records but here it feels like every other song has him deploying some sort of ear worm to get you singing along. These songs dig in the way good Pop songs do.

Where the album falls short though is again with Malone himself. The lyrics are much to be desired, especially when he works in his rap mode. They are mostly the over inflated feelings of relationship problems articulated through loose profanities, often circling the emotion with little reflection or introspection to make the words interesting. Its knee deep and thus tends to drift out of focus and that is where the glossy production and good instrumentation picks up the slack. This is a huge step forward for the young artists and Its been a blast seeing him get here. Hollywood's Bleeding will most likely pick up some awards this year!

Favorite Tracks: Enemies, Circles, Take What You Want, Staring At The Sun,
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 13 September 2019

Brockhampton "Ginger" (2019)


Hip Hop collective and self proclaimed boy band Brockhampton of Texas are unsurprisingly back at it again, given their prolific output so far. This fifth album in the span of just over two years has probably been the most endearing and unique to my tastes. The bombast, flair and rugged attitudes get toned down on a couple of tracks. In its place emotional narratives play out over instrumentals that draw upon classic sounds of eras gone by, classic R&B and cultural acoustic guitars that make for striking moods. Of course, when the drums are dialed up, quirky synth and sampling pitch in its not as obvious. A track like Dearly Departed is the pinnacle of these ear catching current. Its plays like a slowed down Delfonics classic, its strings haunting the lyrical out poor. The closing song, another stunning expression rapped decisively.

Reflecting on Iridescence, the group do tend to sway in between these ends. From the dark and raunchy Vivid to a swooning sing along San macros, Brockhampton operate on levels. Immediate to enjoy and tantalizing to dissect their music is refining to a continual giving of change, compared to the Saturation series. Creative percussion, an ear for unique sampling pallets and developing rap styles had me locked in. On the latter part, these emotional narratives and introspective lyrics give so much meaning to the music where once boisterous and wild rapping tended to fall a bit hollow, now the songs come to life. A feature from Slowthai was a pleasant surprise and overall the group have really locked me in this time around. I hope they continue to evolve as greatness surely awaits if they do so, another great set of numbers.

Favorite Tracks: No Halo, Boy Bye, Heaven Belongs To You, Dearly Departed, Big Boy, Victor Roberts
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 9 September 2019

Queen "The Game" (1980)


Arriving at the midway point of Queen's discography, the group step into the new decade with a cohesive shift in tone that reflects the passing times. Although still experimenting vocally and with special effects, the Progressive band we once knew is in embers as the Arena Rock tone strips these songs back to simple structures, tightly packed riffs and grooves of which a little Funk and Disco creeps into the rhythm section on Dragon Attack and Another One Bites The Dust. Its still a typically diverse record as Ive come to expect. Although the distortion guitars are absent on many a song, they have classic Queen rumbustious eruptions of oozing lead guitar on the tracks with lean Rock guitars tho. Crazy Little Thing Called Love switches up the tone for a warm and charming Rockabily number, still sounds fantastic all these years later.

A stinker turns up in Don't Try Suicide. Its a flaky tune attempting to address a serious topic with an utterly shallow and thoughtless tone. It sounds like a song coerced by some government prevention organization, with rules and regulation on what can be said. I'm sure there intentions were good but its an awful track. The album closes with a beautiful song, Save Me, that is one of their best Ive never heard before this voyage. Freddie's singing is sublime, the harmonies are gorgeous and typically enigmatic guitar leads from Brian May make it an overlooked Queen gem for my ears. All in all The Game is the latest offering of a band experimenting with many sounds, for some reason it all fits together better than previous attempts. And whats up with the album cover? Seems like not a lot of effort was put into its presentation.

Favorite Tracks: Play The Game, Another One Bites The Dust, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Save Me
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Tool "Fear Inoculum" (2019)


For many fans its been a feverish wait. Thirteen years since 10,000 Days the Alternative and Progressive Metal juggernauts return with a might eighty eight minutes of music. For me its been a matter of months, having only dived into their records this year. It was a slow process to come around to their genius but a sublime performance at Download Festival won me over. Being new to Tool, Fear Inoculum is just another chapter to my ears, only the crisp audio clarity explains a thirteen year gap. Its most technically impressive fetes feel like a band continuing to inch forward but large sections of the music stagnate on the workings of Ænima and more so Lateralus.

Its ten tracks can be split into two halves. Firstly five interludes of musical quirkiness, noise and ambience experimentation that drifts in and out of focus with little to note of. Chocolate Chip Trip does however muster much excitement from Danny Carey who plays an animated drum solo over the looping synths playing tonal melodies in an odd time signature. It could of been an indulgent guitar riff, however performed through the cold mechanical synth tone it is a stiff and disenchanting tune that would drive one slightly mad if it were not for the impressive, dexterous percussive display.

The other half consists of lengthy tracks ranging from ten to sixteen minutes. Two of these, Descending and Culling Voices excessively elongate a minimalist approach that has the scenic, sprawling journey of a Tool song stretched to its upper limits. Descending does have some beautiful guitar work in its mid section, a dazzling synthetic conclusion but takes a lengthy meandering walk to get to its powerful moments. Much of these two songs feel dragged out and thus any suspension and build up gets fizzled out, Culling never really getting of the ground at all.

The title track and Pneuma are fantastic, sprawling songs mastering the suspension and tension that it so delicately holds close to frailty. The records best and longest song, 7empest, reeks of Undertow in all the best of ways. Its psychedelic bells prime the atmosphere for a resurgence of crunching Alternative energy and anger to lead the music into lengthy guitar lead tangents of textural solo playing and technical riffing that eventually births the equivalent of a break down. Its utterly riveting and indulgent, the sort of music you want to let wash over you. Over thinking it may break the spell.

For the most part, Tool are sticking to what they know and crafting lengthy epics in the way only they do. In moments of reinvention they engulf the listener but its a game of hit and miss, when the songs work they are some of their best music to fate. When missing the mark the lengthy nature comes back to haunt as some sections drag into a frivolous lull. It is however aesthetically gorgeous, right on the mark. The bass guitar is stunning throughout and the textural chemistry between it and the guitars is a treat of its own, enhanced by a stellar production. Danny Carey gets a little quiet in places but when animated he fuels the music with another dimension of intrigue. Having warmed up to Keenan I'd say I considerably enjoyed his presences and loved his ability to charm in at the musics peaks.

Its such a curious album given the thirteen year absence. It plays little bearing to me though, having relatively fresh ears to the band, a little bias from decades of adoration many fans have this feels like a very flawed movement forward, certainly developing the Tool sound and forging new gems but also with a lot of unnecessary baggage. One thing I can be certain of is that this band have solidified much audio time from me in the future. I hope this is not the last work they create together. They still have more to offer.

Favorite Track: 7empest
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 2 September 2019

Fairyland "Of Wars in Osyhria" (2003)


This short lived band from France only released a trio albums, this being the first. Of Wars in Osyhria has been an absolute pleasure that has got me questioning my stance on Power Metal. First Sabaton blew me away and now this! Two totally different beasts but now I am seeing the lines that get blurred between the Symphonic Extreme Metal I love, for example Dimmu Borgir, and where Power Metal shares some similarities in embracing keys and strings. In particular, a relatively unknown outfit called Stormlord had a stunning fusion of Black Metal and this style of fantasy led symphony on their At The Gates Of Utopia record! The Metal was far more dominate and overpowering of its fantasy string section but the tone is very similar!
 
That initial comparison gave me an anchored entry into this record and swiftly did I grow to appreciate the absence of shouts and screams! Fairyland have given the spotlight to the layers of glorious synths ushering in hugely magical and imaginative soundscapes. Its actually the drum kit that brings in an extreme angle, driving the music along with thunderous intention, battering with an intensity to raise the stakes as the guitars tend to chug and churn underneath the rich symphony. Electrified lead licks and solos do occasionally blaze into the light but the keys are king here. Acording to the wiki only one keyboardist is employed at a time, I wonder how they pull of such a lavish sound live, its clearly layered and dense.

These songs dazzle there way through epic themes of might and magic, heroism in battle, good versus evil, all in a glorious stride that could encompass a typical Fantasy genre tone. Particularly Warcraft in places, echoing Glenn Stafford's genius soundtracks. Its wonderfully written, the songs continuously swoon in and out of oozing arrangements of gleaming melodies that give me goosebumps again and again. The balance is stunning, songs are structured with recurring sections that punch with weight after the dancing through progressive tangents tirelessly. Its sixty five minutes don't let up for a moment, a ceaseless magic that gushes forth right to the very end, the last few notes being admittedly underwhelming to bow out on.
 
Ive actually binged this record hard and its still working for me. I feel like Ive found another diamond that will be with more for the rest of time. The only weak spot Ive encountered is the vocals, Elisa Martin's operatic voice is a sturdy fit, powerful, strong and theatrical, only her accent puts a noticeable hindrance on the pronunciation of certain words. Its a minor qualm. Alongside her, the occasional chiming powerful male voices unite and plenty of choral voices enrich this avenue too. Its a thick and dense onslaught of instruments, crescendo by the lavish dance of stunning symphonies. Truly a marvelous record, can't wait for the next one!

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Horsebeach "The Unforgiving Current" (2019)


Ive been eagerly anticipating this release. Two years back Beauty & Sadness blew me away, one of my favorites that year. I still fondly return to it, hence the anticipation. The Unforgiving Current continues in a similar vein, Post-Punk baselines drive breezy atmospheres echoing Indie & Psychedelic Rock. There is a closeness to Dream Pop in tone, a touch of Brit Pop and 80s vibes influencing chord progressions. Its a beautiful melting pot from which slow and soothing, inviting songs nurture its serene and sunny warmness. There is a vulnerable core, journey on the soft and expressive voices that filter in and out of focus.

Its unimposing presence makes for an easy, relaxed listening experience where one can indulge in its exotic tone. As the album unfolds, elements of R&B, Soul & Funk even present themselves subtly. Shimmering guitars ring out, creating swooning swirls of breezy color over the grooving baselines. The track Trust opens up with a chilling similarity to The Isley Bothers song Voyage To Atlantis, other songs to have echos of that classic era of mainly American music from the 70s and 80s.

The record follows a similar blueprint to its predecessor, the songs flow with similar temperaments and shifts in mood. There are tracks with drum machine and those without, its all very familiar territory. Deploying beautiful melodies and unfolding riffs, occasional burst of experimentation, the music does a lot to warm your soul but it falls short of being remarkable on the production front. In comparison they are both very similar records but the initial reaction to discovering a new sound to adore masked the obviously amatursih production and that became rather obvious this time around.

It starts with the baseline, a noticeable amount of clunk roughens up its presence and the drum strikes land a little cluttered in the presences of other instruments. Every now and then a drab and fuzzy distortion guitar rumbles in, bleeding into the other instruments and soaking up the fidelity. With a lot of reverberations at work the instruments mostly sound like they are recorded with a different sonic blueprint. When mixed together its comes off a bit disjointed. Perhaps I am nit picking, initially the low-fidelity was a charm but this time around its tame. Listening back to their older songs I think a noticeable shift to subtler styles of singing misses that element of a voice rising up above the melody to peak the vibes and hold your attention. Its a very enjoyable record but a noticeable step side ways, with the sound remaining in a familiar spot.

Favorite Tracks: The Unforgiving Current, Yuuki, Trust, Unlucky Strike
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Hocico "Artificial Extinction" (2019)


Its more than fair to say the Mexican duo Hocico have a sound set in stone. Their Agrro-tech tone and temperament hasn't budged in a over decade. 2017's Spider Bites offered some b-sides and inconclusive experiments that made for an interesting listen as a fan. This new album however sticks rigidly to their hard hitting and darkly formula, churning out another eleven four to five minute tracks of thumping drums, aggressive synths and harsh screams. What's different this time around isn't much. A noticeable switch up to Drumstep style beats on a couple of tracks, however they are the most generic of samples, ones which I enjoy of course.

With the mildest of change ups, the record as a whole fails to produce much that sparkles. Its a very routine album where you can simply drop in if your in the Hocico mood. It delivers on that, another installment of driving dance floor kick drums, heavy hitting, the backbone of many songs, steadily thumping through just about every track. Around that drive, harsh and filling clicks, clacks and buzzes of percussion and Industrial noise create a thick barraging wall of unearthly sound. Layered looping arrangements of unnerving melodies dance of the variety of synth tones tuned for each track. The vocals are one dimensional, every word delivered through the same "whispering scream" that tends to blur into the music in a drone.

It occurs to me now that even its interlude tracks stick to the blueprint, being interchangeable with others from previous records. With each song deploying a repetitive arrangement pummeling dark EDM, it takes an emergent melody or break to elevate the mood and that seems to take place every other song or so. Only one song excelled, Damaged. Its shift in percussive style exciting and the stand out melody with its spacey bells is thrilling every listen. Otherwise its the same old thing from this duo. Next time I wont bother since they seem set in their ways, even if I like that sound.

Favorite Track: Damaged
Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Queen "Jazz" (1978)


Now embarking on their seventh full length, the eclectic music of Queen is starting to to sound more compartmentalized. No longer an organic tapestry that ebbs and flows from theatrical pantomime to hard guitar grooves and all in between, the group have split their styles and experiments into distinct songs that had me feeling like I had a bias to the ones I knew. The reality is Jazz has a mix of stinkers and classics among its thirteen tracks. Where time has dwindled out the mediocre, the classics have lived on which leads me to believe its no bias but an album of mixed fruits, some of which are rotten and many listens couldn't sweeten the taste for me.

The album kicks off with the stale and jarring Mustapha. It conjures Arabic dialect to foster a middle eastern atmosphere. Then its dense and swaying rock guitars rub up against the stark tone with contrasting vibes. Its production is drab in halves and the song rather dull. Bicycle Race and Fat Bottomed Girls are classics that need no introduction, the latter revives the arena rock anthem ideals of News Of The World's opening songs. If You Can't Beat Them seems contrived to reach the same anthemic chorus ideals but its execution is so underwhelming, it doesn't have any juice or pizzazz. Don't Stop Me Now is a beautiful eruption of piano led music, trusted forth by Freddie's unforgettable expressions. Similar ideas can be heard on the ballad Jealousy and In Only Seven Days but again, its a template now and they don't deliver.

Many Queen tropes are being recycled, even guitar tones too. Its a creatively stagnant point but their collective genius lands on occasions. Jazz does end on a creative high with More Of That Jazz, deploying slick metallic guitar licks that gel into atmospheric vocal layering. Its a delight, played on a loop with snippets of songs from earlier in the record, a cool way to bow the album out. If Ive sounded critical it may be that opening song setting the wrong tone for the following music. At this point I just think the band have bared their fruits and its obvious what they are attempting, so when it doesn't hit the mark it falls flat in comparison to the high standard they have created for themselves.

Favorite Tracks: Fat Bottomed Girls, Bicycle Race, Dead On Time, Don't Stop Me Now, More Of That Jazz
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Jinjer "Micro" (2019)


While working on their forth full length album, Ukrainian Djent and Metalcore hybrid outfit Jinjer have put out this short, twenty minute five track EP. It was easy to dismiss at first, with less bombast and groove the songs rattle through waves of brooding intensity in the form of tangled jangled riffs that wobble through untimely shifts and poly grooves. Its singer Tatiana Shmailyuk who draws one in past the metallic dissonance which offers little melodic relief. Between angered, roaring screams she opens her voice up with a touch of vulnerability and wash of resolve, taking spotlight in an otherwise monochromatic aesthetic of cold crunch Metal instrumentation.

After themes of primitive behavior and childhood trauma Teacher, Teacher grabs the ear with a pratical use of language, plain and descriptive yet telling quite the powerful story. The use of language is either artistic or obstructed by language barriers but either way it has a strong persuasion that drags you in. Its line "don't let the school make a fool of you" sticks out like a thistle. The way she soars her ranges in different temperaments is endearing, often sucking you in like a gravity well. Again it ends on the broken and charming English of "I Smile to you". Fascinating song from the lyrical perspective, not something I experience that often.

Its a rather dark and painful piece of music that progressively opens up and eases of the agression steadily from the instrumental perspective, ending on a non-metallic interlude. Jinjer have delved deeper into the eclectic side of their influences and come up with a more artistic expression where these songs give far more food for thought. The cold and stomping, jaunt guitars create quite the unsettled atmosphere for Tatiana to resolve. The battering and relentless drums are a joy too! A fantastic chemistry, I'd prefer to see more of this direction from them!

Favorite Track: Teacher, Teacher
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 19 August 2019

The Contortionist "Our Bones" (2019)


I will forever have an eye on this band after their timely and glorious Language. Their following effort Clairvoyant was a fair record but has not stuck as deeply with me. Our Bones is the newest material from the American outfit. It consists of three original tracks and a sweet cover of 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins. Its a comforting, warm cover with a sunny and smile inducing vibe, a perfect fit for singer Michael Lessard who sings with a soft sensitivity. Beautiful tribute.

The three originals are lucid and fluid. The songs groove to their own identity as the constrains of an ambitious album concept have been set free. No long and winding atmospheres of crafty progression, or overly complicated concepts. The first two tracks play freely with the dynamics of their heavy metallic aggression and melodic serenity. Bouncing between riffs in simple song structures the creativity emerges in the cracks between and variations that let a little lead guitar move forth and flourish, or a bassline rumble and rise. I especially love the reverberated scream that echos like a chill into the atmosphere of Early Grave. The creativity here feels very natural.

All Grey brings in airy melancholy synths and lush pianos for a delicate and sensitive interlude track that has but a single moment before gently fading out. Its a great bridge to the cover. Although Our Bones is a short thirteen minutes, it makes quite the mark as back to back listens still have me excited. It sounds unlikely that these songs will shape a new direction for their next full length but its shows they are very capable of a different approach to the particular chemistry these artists have forged.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 16 August 2019

Slipknot "We Are Not Your Kind" (2019)


The masked Metal juggernauts Slipknot return once again to make another ferocious racket but this time it is a return to form of sorts. Five years since the underwhelming Gray Chapter, the Iowa nine-piece outfit seemed to have found their peace as a band. Having once stated they would only ever perform as the original line-up, a promotion cycle parading unity among each other and the three newest additions seems so as the music reflects fondly of this time and place. Even the surprising dismissal of Chris Fenn hasn't derailed the Slipknot beast. Rumors of greed may have tarnished some perceptions but their sixth full length bares none of this burden.

There are not many records that come out the gate screaming and kicking, refusing to let up. Thinking back to the bands explosive self-titled and extremified Iowa record, they both open with daunting ambience introductory track of manic dread and terror before erupting into a string of unrelenting aggression and energy, birthing five unforgettable tracks each. With exception to the friendlier Insert Coin introduction we have four songs that really kick the album into life. Unsainted, Birth Of The Cruel, Nero Forte and Critical Darling spur of the best of the bands traits. Wild metallic riffs loaded with punch and groove barrage the listener as the sway between the infectious hooks Corey delivers with his charmed singing voice.

Its the best of their first three albums rolled into one, slickly produced and neatly polished into a digestible package. It may lack some of the immediacy and imminent frustration from the bands youth but as seasoned song writers the group hand pick some of their best ideas and redeploy them tastefully. Seasoned fans will hear similar compositions, timely keg smashes and delightfully an audible Sid Wilson who is keenly involved in adding a textural level with his scratch and sample that often peaks involvement in the "breakdowns". Couldn't of asked for more, we even get a revival of Corey's maddening shouted raps, beautifully juxtaposed with a little incoherent fire against his most pristine vocal on Nero Forte.

A Liars Funeral marks a shift in tone as Slipknot focus on the expansive, slow moving and brooding atmospheres. On this track alone they execute it stunningly as the music moves from its foggy, lonesome acoustic guitars and rainy singing into an intense drive of restrained, stalking pace wonderfully complimented by these pitch phasing electronic drones. Its a powerful song, A brilliant work of progressive writing, perhaps akin to the likes of Gently if not better? After this Red Flag pulls it back to a quick and snappy pummeling of Slipknot aggression, then from this mediocre by comparison song the album loads in a lot of ambience that took a little longer to come around to.

Death Because Of Death and What's Next certainly feel like underwhelming interludes. Its an expansive move for Slipknot's sound pallet and as we head into this final phase of the record this temperament opens up. My Pain feels like the dud, its toying with ambience and bright xylophone lead by a jolted hi hat is all fantastic but perhaps out of place on this record? The unsettling, crooked piano melody of Spiders lets this angle manifest perfectly and Not Long For This World has a ambient build up but ends up with one of the albums best crescendos as Sid Wilson again gets teeth in with vinyl scratches alongside Corey's "I was not born for this world" screams.

Although writing a blog is usually the turning of a page on an album I will certainly give this one more time as I found I differed in this final phase from the exuberant response critics and fans alike have given this release. The thing is, writing this blog and paying a little closer attention made me realize how much these songs had sunk in despite feeling unsure about the atmospheric avenue in the end phase. Orphan and Solway Firth pop in the middle of this slow temperament and they too are hard hitting tracks. Time will tell for sure but and this moments its hard not to feel excited as this album delivers something to truly fit in with the bands first three exquisite albums.

Least Favorite Songs: Insert Coin, Death Because Of Death, What's Next
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Hexenkraft "Deep Space Invocations: Volume 1" (2019)


With an album titled Permadeath looming in the distance, actually to be released the day the masses storm Area 51, this Dark Ambient two track record caught me by surprise. It is reminiscent of both the Starcraft and Diablo OST's, which Matt Uelman had a hand in both. Its janky spacecraft industrial noises and synths mixed alongside sinister strings, foreboding horns and eerily plucked acoustic guitars sounds like a natural allegiance of the game themes. The two eight minute songs share a brilliant aesthetic pallet primed with complimenting instruments that bridge classical sounds of isolated pianos and warning strings with gaunt bursts of electronic buzzing and mechanical whirling synths. Its held together with spacious percussive sounds, often lingering in reverb and leaning into Industrial smashes and strikes as spurs of tempo muster up brief and claustrophobic surges of rhythmic pounding, mostly dispelling back into uneasy temperament.

The songs are lengthy, slow in pace and forever brooding, usually on a sense of dread or void drifting loneliness. The songs progress swaying from one moment to the next with no arching conclusion or consequence. These are snapshots of time, danger lurking, sometimes growing to close for comfort but never arriving. Its underlying tone setter, the strings, sometimes pianos and guitars too, tend to linger on a few musical themes that lack a sense of evolution. As backing music this undoubtedly sets a vivid atmosphere to be indulged in. At the forefront these instruments lack of progression or movement into an expressive phase becomes quite frustrating. There are many moments and opportunities for the swells of mysterious sound to bust into life with a melody or chord progression. That however is what made the aforementioned soundtracks so fantastic. This doesn't have to be that, but it certainly broods a particular atmosphere ripe for deployment.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 9 August 2019

Queen "Queen" (1973)


Arriving at their debut release, my expectations had been lowered by the underwhelming Symphonic Rock of Queen II. Surprisingly, this is an easier to digest record. Full of the eclectic diversity and variety that Queen are known for however its yet to find distinction. The production is clunky and dated, the musical influences obvious, worn on the sleeve, yet the songs it births at this point in the bands infancy are much more distinguished and fun than the following record. Brian May also kicks the record into gear with burst of Heavy Metal eruption on Doing All Right very akin to some of his best moments. He quite often finds stirs of Heavy Metal energy to inject.

The song swings between polarizing styles in a playful manor and whats encapsulated in that one track can be heard throughout as the band sway from soft and folksy Progressive Rock into bursts of Heavy Metal and Classic American Rock. The song Son & Daughter even goes into Doom Metal territory as the slow, sludgy guitar grooves carry their texture into the light, very Black Sabbath. Much of the record plays with these obvious familiarities but they always come with a spice of instrumental playfulness as keys and guitar leads add colorful upheavals in practically every song.

Some of the lyrics take on a biblical tone, the track Jesus being a prime example. I am unsure if its a song of praise or a mockery but the tone is a shambles, making an ugly appraisal out of layered voicings which had been used beforehand so effectively as burst of immediacy on songs like Liar. Overall its far better than its predecessor but not exactly its own animal yet. All the markings of what make this band so fantastic are here, ready to be developed. From here onward we only have the 80s and 90s albums left to explore!

Favorite Tracks: Doing All Right, Seven Seas Of Rhye
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Sabaton "The Great War" (2019)


And now for the mighty symphonic gleam of the one and only War inspired Power Metal outfit Sabaton! This album has been an absolute U-turn for me. I checked out Heros a few years back and despite always trying to open my heart to music, I was not swayed. It took my favorite war historian Indy Neidell teaming up with the band to win me over. The united to create a documentary Youtube channel that dives into the historical inspiration behind each song and It really brewed a connection. These guys are history nerds too and now the thematic nature of their music felt very genuine.

It took but two or three listens to engulf me. No longer did these cheesy lyrics act as a deterrent, I now understood that each song had a slice of the past inspiring it and that I could get behind! The wording does get somewhat literal and plain in places but I now find myself enjoying that aspect. "Lead the charge, our leader has entered the battlefield". There are plenty of un-poetic, descriptive wordings at play like this but when its lined with dates, names and locations you have to admire the dedication to keeping it accurate. Ive ended up singing along on many an occasion!

Joakim Broden's mighty and anthemic charge as a frontman is fantastic if not flawed. His deep voice in spoken sections can sound a fraction goofy but he knows how to deliver the energy. With power and conviction in his gruffly sung voice he constantly elevates alongside the music to create ear worm hooks that you just can't shake! Behind him the music is especially energetic and beaming with a triumphant might. Its Power Metal that leans on thicker guitar tones, classic Heavy Metal shredding and a delightful weight of symphonic keys that back with choral voicings and synths.

With the driving percussive force of Dahl, many of these songs move forward with a rocking tempo, cramming in a lot of sound. The rumble of textured bass lines creates a sturday foundation for tandem guitars to interchange colorful licks and variations over the top of power chord chugging riffs that batter in time with the drums. Its a big and bold sound always lined with a symphonic glow from the keys and just about every song encounters exciting breaks from the verse chorus structure.

Its mostly in the form of solos that shred classic wailing 80s Heavy Metal styling to give one goosebumps if your a fan of classic solos from the likes of Ozzy's guitarists. They are bright and beaming, colorful and played flawlessly. I also hear echos of Judas Priest in the solo's but I'm sure that's probably whats to be heard in a lot of Power Metal considering it developed from that sound. I also hear a now toned down Dimmu Borgir on the albums last Metal song. Its lavished in hysterical singing, horns and trumpets, the ramped up energy has some similarities to their Eonian.

The album bows out on an emotional note as a choir sings the memorial poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae. The singing is simply gorgeous and ends the whole experience on a very humbling note. I absolutely love this record! I have had so much fun with it and will continue to spin it for weeks to come! I now feel rather incentivized to back track over Sabaton's discography. This album ticked so many boxes for me on things I like about Metal music, it seems almost mad I had dismissed them as not being for me. Its the same old lesson, gotta open up and learn to love cause hate and negativity means you miss out on fantastic records like this one.

Favorite Tracks: Seven Pillars Of Wisdom, 82nd All The Way, Great War, A Ghost In The Trenches, Fields Of Verdun, The End Of The War To End All Wars, In Flanders Fields
Rating: 8/10