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