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

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Jinjer "King Of Everything" (2016)

I initially found the Ukraine Metal outfit Jinjer to be a rather reasonable band. As they continue to gain eardrums in the Metal community, it seemed the hype had alluded me. Cloud Factory was a satisfactory listen, a merging of influences that didn't yield anything particularity unique. King Of Everything however has that same blueprint of obvious inspirations but throughout this record its riffs and songs culminate to a serving with its own spice. With every spin I get sucked further into the energy they forge as a band. Tho it is no masterclass, this album certainly offers up some characterized extreme music that can separate itself from the generic and played out.

With a competent and pounding rhythm section the array of lively guitar work and singer Tatiana Shmailyuk stand aloud. Her deep and burly shouts are ferocious and forceful, cutting through the barrage of metallic might. She pivots into the clean singing and it works well, always with an edge of force but on I Speak Astronomy and Pisces we hear a gentle side to her that is both charming and dynamic as the moody acoustics that accompany her break up the flow of djenty Metalcore brutality.

As the record ebbs and flows between its arsenal of grooving aggressive guitar work, a steady roll out of chemistry emerges as the elements converge and birth fantastic, memorable moments. They don't tend to diverge to far from the baseline temperament but impressive lead guitar licks played by Roman Ibramkhalilov injects bursts of color into the often monochromatic, rhythm oriented low end riffs. They frequent the on off bursts of tonal noise the Djent style is known for and shape up some grand acoustics and other progressive musical ideas around that key guitar component.

The forty two minutes spanned over ten tracks never really falter. Its consistent and engaging, the final track, Beggars Dance, bows out on a comical note as the opening song is replayed in a Jazz Rock context with a lively baseline and softly plucked guitars. When the solo hits around the mid section it sparkles, a different tone to go out on but it wraps up a solid record. Impressive, Looking forward to their new release.

Favorite Tracks: Captain Clock, Words Of Wisdom, Just Another, Under The Dome, Dip A Sail
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Obituary "Frozen In Time" (2005)

When thinking of Obituary its always this album cover that comes to mind. Putting things into perspective, I most likely listened to this record when it first came out however I had shelved them based on their earlier Death Metal records which I was never that keen on. Hailing from Tampa Florida, they share a location and linage alongside other pioneering acts of the extreme sound that emerged from Thrash Metal in the 80s. This record however comes over twenty years after their formation and at the time an eight year hiatus following Back From The Dead. Frozen In Time caught my ear on shuffle the other day and Ive since indulged with it.

With a grisly, crunchy warm distortion tone the guitar work has a hybrid approach, crossing the axe grinding and darkness of tremolo Death Metal shredding with an obvious helping of slamming Hardcore groove. Led almost entirely by its guitar riffs the album cruises at mid-tempo, through a dense churning of thick guitar led arrangements. Guided by competent drum patterns that don't go all in with blast beats and extremities, it makes for easy listening approachable in a relative sense.

Its charm emerges when the plethora of mediocre riffs find a pacing for the equivalent of a breakdown. A percussive element goes half time and the guitars resonate with a measure of bounce and groove in the power chord dynamics. Its quite toned down but that tends to aid its deployment. The whole record has a steady tone and its atmosphere lulls you and unexpectedly jumps into lunges of movement with this two-step akin "breakdowns". Without them it would drone on and on.

Singer John Tardy is howling away throughout with his one of a kind harsh and throaty shouts. They never do however shift temperament or offer variety. The consistency of all elements makes for an album that is quick to get to grips with. Its production is well composed, the dense guitar eat up a lot of space but reverberated snare drum and punchy kick drum warp around it. The bass guitar must be mirroring as it barely makes a distinction. Overall its a very straightforward set of tracks with simple song structures however these subtle emerges of Hardcore influence are a lot of fun and that's what checking out this record has been... Fun!

Favorite Track: Redneck Stomp
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 5 August 2019

Slowthai "Runt" (2018)

Majorly impressed by the young Northampton Grime rapper's debut Nothing Great About Britain, I naturally tracked back to this five track EP released a year beforehand. With mention to the album by name, It seems unlikely this is the release that got him signed, which I was curious to learn about. With that in mind the maturity and development as an artist between the two is rather substantial. Slowthai has his bite, grit and mean attitude intact, the exaggerated articulation of his dialect is simply natural and subtle at this point tho.

On two fronts the record steadily dissipates. Slow Down kicks it off with a banging beat vaguely reminiscent of Inglorious. The rhymes are firm, flow energized by anger. He vents his frustrations telling the tale of a childhood Christmas ruined by the cold. With Drug Dealer he articulates his venture into criminality with both tracks having emotional weight and finding moments of clever lyricism too. After these tracks the topicality drops off, a lack of narrative or purpose lulls the mood and the Instrumentals follow suit.

Disneyland sounds like a train of conscious thought that doesn't land anywhere. The spacious, zoned out instrumental plays disorienting, zany samples that lead into a off-kilt de synced drum groove that has no anchoring point. Its a clear experiment, built for purpose, trying to conjure a zonked atmosphere but its executed poorly. There is a couple of tracks of interest here but fails to come close to the albums level of quality.

Favorite Tracks: Slow Down, Drug Dealer
Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 3 August 2019

3TEETH "Shutdown.exe" (2017)

Aesthetically speaking this band are absolutely my cup of tea. On this record we step back a fraction from the metallic element with a tonal shift towards the Electro-Industrial hilt. Distortion guitars are dialed back in presence from the meaty Metawar. A stronger emphasis is placed on the sonic pallet of busying robotic noises. Font man Mincolla sounds no less of his own, although the Manson mimicry is minimal, his voice is drenched in distortions and dystopian effects that have him drift into the middle of attention, like another layer of detail in the web of machine like constructs.

These songs are dense and textural, a tapestry of whirling mechanical, electronic and alien sounds that coheres into a cyber punk world of neon lights and endless smog. Its slightly uneasy, unsettled and futuristic, capturing a detachment from the natural world as one could imagine it the soundtrack to a dystopian vision of the future. With a plethora of sounds they decorate the blood pumping baselines and smashing thuds of kick and snare grooves that propel the songs forward. Softly screeching synths play rattled melodies and potent power chords inject force through the guitar element. It holds together a firm atmosphere that reminds me fondly of my favorite Industrial acts but doesn't go to far in defining itself.

As mentioned, Mincolla finds himself in the middle ground with all the other instruments that never seem to leap out at the listener. They all work on the same temperament and thus the album is short on attention grabbing tracks. It is most notably apparent with a lack of sing along hooks as his garbled voice often blends into the wall of sound. Atrophy manages to pull off a killer number as its elements are laid bare, chopping in and out. It gives the guitar a real kick when it drops in and the lyrics to seem to ride that wave. The rest of the songs make up a passing experience that comes in various degrees but under closer inspection it doesn't bite quite as hard.

Rating: 6/10
Favorite Tracks: Atrophy, Tower Of Disease